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Kalispell City Council to put local government review before voters

by CARL FOSTER
Daily Inter Lake | February 7, 2024 12:00 AM

During a short meeting Monday, Kalispell City Council unanimously approved a slate of resolutions, including one putting a possible review of local government before voters this spring.

Municipalities must query voters on whether to review local government every 10 years under state law. If residents back the idea at the ballot box during the June 4 primary election, officials will form a commission tasked with carrying out the reappraisal. 

Council will still need to decide how many people would serve on the commission and how much money would need to be raised to support the effort. City Manager Doug Russell told Council that Billings and Bozeman have both proposed putting $200,000 behind their respective review efforts, and Belgrade has pitched $135,000. 

Russell’s memo to Council on the topic suggested raising, at most, $150,000 for the undertaking.

Russell also reminded Council that a five-person commission to perform the government study met with defeat in 2014. He suggested proposing a group of three people this time around.

Commission members would be elected during the Nov. 5 general election, if voters back the review, and their recommendations would go before voters in 2026. 

COUNCIL WARMLY welcomed the advancement of a Historic Preservation Grant application for repairs on the city’s Depot Park building, which already is undergoing refurbishment. 

Russell told Council that the grant dollars could be applied to a second wave of renovations after crews finish work on the building’s interior in advance of the Kalispell Parks and Recreation Department’s move there.

“We look to methods for financing these things,” Russell said. “We’re working on improvements right now, but this money can be delayed a little bit til after we move in.”

Department Superintendent Chad Fincher gave an update on the building, noting that workers have removed one wall to make two offices face the front end. The rest of the structural work is done, he said.

“We’re on painting and cabling for IT, which is mostly complete,” Fincher said, adding that after a few more weeks of painting, crews can move onto carpeting and flooring, which is set to finish around March.

Department employees will move into the space at that point, he said.

COUNCIL ALSO opened a public hearing on how to allocate the $313,674 the city is eligible to receive through the State Local Infrastructure Partnership Act. 

Money shunted toward localities by the legislation must go to maintaining or repairing public infrastructure. Municipalities have until March 31 to apply for the dollars and must contribute a 25 percent cash match.

While city officials have begun compiling a list of eligible projects, Council is seeking public input on how those efforts are prioritized. 

Owing to a delay in publishing notices for the public hearing, officials opted to open it Feb. 5 and carry it on through Council’s Feb. 20 meeting. For more information on how to attend, including virtually, go to www.kalispell.com/agendacenter.

Russell also noted Monday that the city will host its budget workshops on May 7 and 8. Mayor Mark Johnson, who has been critical of the state’s handling of property tax assessments, plans to invite Gov. Greg Gianforte. 

Reporter Carl Foster can be reached at 758-4407 or cfoster@dailyinterlake.com.

* This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Kalispell Parks & Recreation Department Director Chad Fincher's name.