Helena City Commission gets updates on downtown parking, land acquisition

Posted at 11:50 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 01:51:14-04

Helena city staff says the downtown parking program is in somewhat better financial shape than initially thought, but that they continue to see lower revenues in the wake of COVID-19.

The Helena City Commission got an update on the program’s financial situation during an administrative meeting Wednesday afternoon.

David Knoepke, the city’s transportation systems director, said they have seen a number of businesses giving up their paid parking permits, as more employees work from home. He said they have had significantly fewer drivers using garages, particularly the 6th Avenue Garage.

Knoepke said there has been some improvement in parking numbers as Montana reopens. He said the program is now expected to have a cash balance of about $300,000 after the end of the fiscal year.

“We do have some cushion moving into the next year, but it does look like we’re going to have a significant shortfall as we move forward,” he said.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the commission heard a presentation on the possibility of acquiring a 54-acre property in the South Hills, above the LeGrande Cannon Trail area.

Prickly Pear Land Trust is looking to purchase the land, then donate it to the city. PPLT director Mary Hollow told commissioners they hope to finalize an agreement with the landowners in the next few days.

City leaders say the acquisition would help them meet goals like improving emergency access and wildfire fuel mitigation. In addition, Hollow highlighted the value of increasing public access, especially during the pandemic. She said trail use has been four times higher than normal this spring.