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Polson City Commission tables business license discussion

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POLSON — At a Nov. 7 meeting the Polson City Commission tabled, for the foreseeable future, discussion on the proposed business license. 

The business license, updated to be called “Safety Inspection Certificates,” based on the actual intent behind the proposed fee for businesses, has been objected to by business owners in city meetings in the past several months; something Mayor Eric Huffine stated he took to heart. 

“Being the new mayor, I didn’t really know what my authorities were and what my authorities weren’t,” Huffine said when proposing to remove the license from the agenda. “(The proposed certificates) has been heavy on my mind on how to handle it. One of my goals as mayor was to figure out how to work with stakeholders, the downtown business district, and the chamber of commerce. I’d like to work on building and nurturing that relationship and figure out how to collaborate on these things at a different level before we get to this point.”

When asked by a fellow council member when it might be revisited, Huffine said he didn’t have that answer. “We’ll strike it from this agenda until we have time to sit together as a group and collaborate and come up with a lot more input from the business community and the stakeholders in town.” 

Local business owners who stepped up during public comment thanked the commissioners for the motion. “I think it’s been heavy on our minds too, with this proposed safety certificate,” one attendee said. “We’ve all been here many times … we appreciate your candor and your honesty coming forward and getting us all together. We felt a little misrepresented and not really communicated to, so we really appreciate that you’ll take more time with us if it’s something we do.”

In other news:

- The council voted in favor of beginning talks with Northwest Montana Community Land Trust on a potential affordable housing project in Polson. 

Modeled after a successful project in Kalispell started in 2008, the land trust will begin work with City Manager Ed Meece to create the first draft of a similar plan tailored to Polson. When completed it will be presented to the council at a later date. 

The Kalispell project brought in as an example, off which discussions will start, involves the use of TIF funds to purchase houses that come up for sale within the city’s TIF district. The city would then resell the house to locals who meet criteria for a fixed affordable price - such as the example price of $200,000 used in the meeting. The city would retain ownership of the land beneath the house as part of the land trust. 

This differs from a rental in that upon deciding to leave the home, the locals can then resell the house - either to the city or to other locals who meet the same criteria - for the same fixed price they paid plus a percentage of the house’s estimated worth, ensuring a gain in equity as opposed to losing money to a rental. 

This fixed price would also guarantee the house remains at a set price point for buyers regardless of increases in the housing market. 

The vote in the affirmative at the Nov. 7 meeting does not mean that this plan is going to go into effect, but rather gave permission to start a proposal for a potential local project along the same lines to be put together and presented as a possibility to the council at a later date. 

- An email subscription service for the city was announced. This service allows local subscribers to receive news about important matters such as meeting updates and emergency notifications directly from the City of Polson. 

Those interested can sign up at:

- In response to a change in policy at the Mission Valley Animal Shelter, the council announced they are trying to identify new partners in the region to take in stray animals that cannot be housed in the local temporary holding facility. Currently working off a complaint-driven process, Polson does not do a lot of patrolling for animals at large and that will continue as they work with both the county and CSKT to develop a more long-term solution. 

- The results of the City of Polson’s external audit for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 were shared. The presenting CPS emphasized how well the city ran its books and suggested only minor changes to make things easier in the future. The utility bill, for instance, should emphasize in what way consumers are reimbursed if estimated meter reads resulted in an overcharge. While consumers have been being reimbursed, the auditor simply suggested the city communicate this more clearly in the future. 

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