By Jerome Tharaud
The Havre City Council's Streets and Sidewalks Committee on Monday night denied the request of a local businessman to impose 30-minute parking south of the Hill County Courthouse.
Instead, the committee said that business owners upset by noncustomers using parking spots reserved for customers will have to post and enforce their own lots.
In a letter last month to Havre Mayor Bob Rice, Havre Montana Realty owner LeRoy Wenz requested the change for Fourth Street between Third and Fourth avenues. He said people doing business in the courthouse had been parking in the lot shared by Havre Montana Realty and Edward Jones Investments on Fourth Street when parking is not available on the streets around the courthouse.
Committee members unanimously rejected the request, arguing that the city cannot spare police to enforce 30-minute parking.
The committee also questioned the adequacy of 30 minutes to conduct most courthouse business.
"People who do business at the courthouse know it's not always that you can get out of there in two hours," said committee member Tom Farnham.
Rice told the committee that courthouse employees take up the parking spaces on the street every morning instead of parking a block away to free up space for courthouse patrons during the day. But he said that the city could not legally tell employees not to park in public parking spaces.
"This comes down to a courtesy issue. That's all it is," Rice said, adding that some elderly people who need to be able to park close to the courthouse sometimes cannot.
Committee members said Wenz would have to post signs in his own lot, and have cars of noncustomers towed. The three committee members who were present voted to draft a letter informing Wenz of the decision.
City attorney Jim Kaze confirmed that restricting the lot for business parking would be legal. "It's much more a trespass than anything else, frankly," he told the committee.
The City Council took up some other business on Monday night:
The council annexed a four-lot, 10.5-acre subdivision on either side of the 2100 block of 10th Avenue. Owners of each of the two homes built on the site signed petitions of annexation. Two more houses are planned for the property. The lot could potentially hold a total of 14 houses, city public works director Dave Peterson.
The council annexed a single lot in a subdivision on the 200 block of 14th Street West.
Also on Monday night, the Finance Committee addressed two spending matters.
An emergency power generator the city had considering buying from Great Falls International Airport last week to replace the one that serves the police and fire departments will not be purchased because it was older than anticipated and missing parts.
The city received an estimate of $300,000 to replace a water line in the area of the intersection of Eighth Street and Eighth Avenue. With the engineering, the project would total $340,000, public works cirector Dave Peterson told the committee.
"That's really out there," Rice said.
Only $70,000 is budgeted for the project, but the city is having the engineering done.