New parking kiosks

New parking kiosks will change the way Helena motorists park downtown.

The city of Helena will resume downtown parking enforcement starting on Sept. 3, Public Information Officer Rebecca Connors said.

After months of wrangling with a new app, city officials believe they have smoothed out the wrinkles in the rollout of a parking plan that includes digital kiosks and meters. 

"The app is up and running," said Connors, who spent part of last week testing the new technology.

Anyone parking downtown will need to pay attention to what zone their car is in. The new kiosks and meters have the zone printed on them, and pre-paid tokens and change will still work.

"The city is at where it wanted to be (in June)," Connors said.

Difficulties with the first rollout caused the city to push back enforcement and reach out to the community to determine how to best implement the changes in downtown parking.

The city is still offering free first-hour parking at five lots downtown: behind Bert and Ernie's on Jackson Street, across from the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce on the west side of Cruse Avenue, across from the Lewis and Clark Library on the west side of Park Avenue, and in the 6th Avenue and Getchell Street garages. 

Connors said anyone using those lots for free parking will still need to enter their license plate information in the app, kiosk or meter so enforcement can track who is legally parked and who is not. 

The city will not be moving forward with first-hour free parking in metered areas, which some business owners had requested, because the average stay for parking downtown is only an hour and a half. 

"The city would be losing a lot of money," Connors said.

She said the parking department has an annual budget of $2 million and is carrying $9 million in debt from building parking garages and funding the new parking system.

"We're going to meet with business owners and task them with keeping channels of communication open," Connors said, adding that plans could change. 

"We're going to see if there's a way to enhance it or make it better for everybody," Connors said.

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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