GREAT FALLS — The City of Great Falls announced that downtown paid parking will be reinstated on April 2nd. Multi-space kiosks are replacing meters along Central Avenue from Park Drive to 8th Street. One kiosk will be located on each side of the street on each block.
Responses on the KRTV Facebook page to a poll about parking have been overwhelmingly in favor of no paid parking.
"We're definitely against it,” said John Williams, the owner of the Burger Bunker restaurant on 5th Street.
Williams said he understands parking downtown is a complex problem with no easy solution, but he's concerned that requiring people to pay for parking will be bad for business.
"I have customers that come in all the time and say they're not willing to pay the parking. It's already tough enough in some areas to get parked. Adding the fee to it, and it's not really pocket change anymore either, it's a couple of bucks,” Williams explained. "I think it is bad timing because we're just getting to a point to where people are feeling comfortable getting back out."
City Planning & Development Director Craig Raymond said the city simply cannot wait any longer: "We're in the negative, we're in the red. So every month that goes by now the program is having to borrow money."
Parking money is used to fund the parking enforcement program, which Raymond said is necessary.
"The business owners I think, many of them, had called us and said 'Okay, when is enforcement coming back? We need it to come back,’” Raymond said. "Having the enforcement forces turnover so the people that are coming downtown to shop in the stores, eat in the restaurants, go to the bars they'll be able to find a reasonable parking spot."