City tourism district could be renewed after expiration

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The Kalispell City Council is gearing up to extend the life of the city’s Kalispell Tourism Business Improvement District.

On Monday the council passed a resolution of intent to consider petitions for the re-establishment of the district, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

“We have been provided petitions by well over the required 60% the area that would be affected,” City Manager Doug Russell reported.

Diane Medler, director of the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau, spoke about the success of the TBID since its creation in 2010. She said the district “has generated a measurable increase in awareness and engagement of Kalispell with travelers in our key markets.”

TBID revenue shows a 25% increase in room nights sold since 2011, she added.

The Tourism Business Improvement District is projecting $658,000 in revenue for this fiscal year, with a $10,000 carry-over from the last fiscal year, for a total budget of $668,000, according to an earlier report given to the council in June. Staffing accounts for 37 percent of the budget, at $244,500, while marketing support is penciled in at $80,700; consumer marketing at $75,500; and groups/meetings and conventions at $89,000.

“It’s really critical that we have the appropriate funds to reach these potential travelers through a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy,” Medler said, speaking in favor of re-establishing the district.

A public hearing will be held Dec. 2.

In other business, the council unanimously approved bid proposals for new vehicles amounting to $286,079.

They approved SWS Equipment’s $204,881 bid for a new rear-load solid waste truck and Kalispell Ford’s $81,198 bid for two new Kalispell Police Department patrol vehicles.

The council also held its first reading of a new stormwater ordinance. As part of a permit from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the city is required “to implement and enforce a new post-construction stormwater management program” this year.

The ordinance “consolidates and updates existing city stormwater regulations, prescribes post-construction stormwater management practices and updates enforcement measures pursuant to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality requirements.”

Public Works Director Susie Turner provided an overview of the ordinance, which was previously discussed at a work session and a public hearing, and answered the council’s questions about the proposed changes.

There was no public comment on the ordinance and the first reading passed unanimously.

Russell provided the council with an update about the local government interim committee. He reported the committee is considering bringing back Senate Bill 17 relating to the regional fire authority at the committee meeting next week, and will provide more information after that meeting.

He also brought up a grant request from the Users Association for lighting and fencing, which will be discussed at the next council meeting.

Council member Kyle Waterman reported on a request to block off Fifth Avenue East for a neighborhood block party and explained the request should go through the city’s special events permit process.

Mayor Mark Johnson reported about a potential adjustment to the interlocal agreement between the city of Kalispell and Flathead County. The change would “look at management going into the county but keep the funding mechanism roughly the same.” Johnson expressed his opposition to this idea based on his preference for a “grand solution,” to the interlocal agreement, rather than a stopgap measure.

During the public comment period of the meeting, B Bradford Fenchak returned to speak on the issue of homelessness in the city. “I’m begging for the council to back something radical and new to help these people,” she said.

Johnson explained the county is still gathering data about homelessness in Kalispell for his mayoral task force on homelessness, so no action is underway on the issue yet.

“I’d rather have good data before we start talking about what are the other issues and what are the potential solutions,” he explained. He said he expects the task force to launch at the start of the new year.

Johnson concluded the meeting by explaining the proposed local sales option tax, which would collect taxes used to offset real estate taxes. He differentiated this from a misconception about a tax that would be used to offset impact fees to benefit developers.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.

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