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Have you heard something around town and you wonder if it's true? Post your questions here and we will help provide an answer. We know that things change over time, and you may have some history to help the community. Share a story to enrich the conversation.

Have you heard something around town and you wonder if it's true? Post your questions here and we will help provide an answer. We know that things change over time, and you may have some history to help the community. Share a story to enrich the conversation.

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    Indoor storage for sanitation trucks - is it a question of can we afford to build it? or is it a question of can we afford NOT to build it? At an upcoming commission meeting, perhaps staff could bring a chart depicting financial analysis of how much it is costing us to keep the sanitation trucks outside during inclement weather in comparison to how much they expect to save with the warm storage building including, but not limited to, how many years they will need to use the building to break even and what the estimated ROI will be for the taxpayers. It is very frustrating to see this project repeatedly put on hold and this suggested type of visual financial analysis presentation should bring finality to the issue one way or the other. Thank you.

    Readneck asked about 2 months ago

    Thank you for your question.

    The warm storage building is for large vehicles that are roughly $250,000 to $300,000 to replace. These vehicles include large street maintenance “tandem” trucks and trash collection vehicles. All of these vehicles run on diesel fuel and at 32 degrees, diesel fuel will gel in lines of these vehicles. There is no guarantee that a vehicle will start, and every time a cold start occurs, the city is adding unnecessary wear and tear on very expensive vehicles that need to have long lives. The need is clear. 

    Currently, the city has over $1.35m set aside for the installation of a storage building from solid waste revenues. While the warm storage building has been a concern for many years, its location is the primarily concern which has not been addressed. Staff have been asked to work with the Fleet and Streets teams as an alternative location near the airport. The convenience of location next to the Transfer Station is clear and the new location will reduce route efficiencies from the Station. However, the location is more industrial and may be more acceptable to the community.

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    On whose specific authority, and on what legal basis, has the Helena Police Department stopped enforcing the laws that prevent homeless from living in our parks, on our sidewalks, and in our streets? City employees claiming to be "in negotiations" to move them does not relieve the Helena Police Department of its fiduciary responsibility and sworn duty to enforce all laws. No one is above the law, including, but not limited to, the homeless.

    Readneck asked 2 months ago

    Thank you for your question.

    The City of Helena has been working with community partners over the past year to find solutions to the apparent increase in homeless. The Helena Police Department has been working with Good Samaritan’s Street Outreach program to house those that have accepted help. They have also worked with God’s Love to direct as many homeless to the shelter as possible. However, there is still a large population of our residents that suffer from homelessness. Those suffering from homelessness are living in tents and camper at various locations throughout the city. Being homeless is not illegal and we treat them with respect, dignity, and empathy when we work with them. The City of Helena’s response is within the law and handled with human dignity in mind.

    Regarding complaints of homeless citizens on public property, that generally involves perceived blight and potentially public health concerns it is causing to the area. There are several considerations that must be made before enforcing city code restrictions against camping in or on public property.   

    Complaints occurring on public property are governed by different ordinances. These include camping in a vehicle on a city street, personal items partially blocking a sidewalk, or sleeping on the walking mall or in a park during hours of darkness. Martin v. City of Boise is a 9th Circuit Court ruling that dictates when and how police can enforce these ordinances. In addition, issuing a homeless person a citation for violation of these ordinances and prosecuting them does not solve the issue and the cycle continues.  

    Another consideration is if the person(s) is removed from public property where will they go if they are not housed through Good Samarian or God’s Love. They move to private or public property in another part of the city and the cycle continues.  

    The Helena Police Department response the past several years has had to be altered due to the Martin v. City of Boise. In the past they have proactively moved every homeless resident camping on public property that was violating an ordinance and issue citations to repeat offenders. This year the police department has strategically responded to concentrations of homeless populations on public property that are causing a substantial and sustained burden on nearby property owners. In collaboration with God’s Love and Good Samaritan Street Outreach police work to house the homeless population that will accept help before removing them from public property, if possible. Those not able to be housed or declining assistance are given time to remove their property. They are also given a warning about violations of city ordinances. After the homeless residents have left the public property, City of Helena Public Works and Parks Departments remove trash and items that are left behind.  

    In addition, the City of Helena has experienced an increase in the number of vehicles, including RVs, that homeless residents are living in. Aside from violation of the city ordinance prohibiting parking a vehicle for the purpose of camping, many of these vehicles do not meet the requirements of the law to be on city right of way. These residents are warned of the violation of the ordinance and given ample time to remove the RV or vehicle from the city right of way. In rare cases the vehicles are towed due to repeated violations or refusal to remove the vehicle in a timely manner.     

    There are many root causes for homelessness that Helena and cities around Montana and the nation are struggling to address. We are continuing to work with our community partners, and the City of Helena’s Community Development, and the Helena Police Departments in lead to come up with both short- and long-term solutions to homelessness in Helena. The City of Helena continues to work to serve all citizens of our community, including those suffering from homelessness, with respect, dignity, and within the law. 

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    How do we implement one-term term limits for all city commissioners and the mayor? Is this a resolution process for an upcoming city commission meeting or is a ballot measure required?

    Readneck asked about 1 month ago

    Thank you for your question.

    Helena’s Charter does not place a limit on the number of terms a person can serve as the mayor or a commissioner. As a result, an amendment to the Charter would be necessary. Section 7-3-103, MCA, indicates a charter amendment “may only be made by submitting the question of amendment to the electors of the local government as provided in 7-3-149.” Section 7-3-103 also notes the several ways in which Charter amendments can be proposed, including (1) by electors via the petition process laid out in 7-3-125, MCA; (2) by the local government via an ordinance; or (3) by a study commission pursuant to 7-3-192, MCA.

    Click here to view Section 7-3-103, MCA

Page last updated: 24 November 2021, 11:37