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Ennis residents, city officials disagree on curb extension project and communication

Posted at 11:04 AM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 13:04:13-04

What would you do if you walked outside of your business and some or all of your parking spots were taken by the city? That’s what happened to several business owners in downtown Ennis.

“Personally, I think it’s ludicrous. I don’t think that they looked at the overall usability or even gave some thought to this before they started spending taxpayers money,” explained Melinda Merrill, the owner of Hayden Outdoors.

Merrill was shocked when all of the parking spaces in front of her business had been blocked off.

“It’s already affected our business. We’ve had a lot of complaints from people that want to come in and see us but they have no place to park,” Merrill said.

The city, along with the Montana Department of Transportation, and Montana State University's Western Transportation Institute is doing a study that temporarily extends the curb in what’s called a parklet in hopes to slow down traffic and make the area safer, which some residents are for.

“I’m not for what it looks like right now, but I’m definitely for safety, for doing anything that improves our town. Our town’s growing whether we like it or not,” explained Cindy McKitrick, the owner of Plain Janes.

Cindy’s business is also downtown and some of her parking was affected. But she believes, in the end, the parklets will help.

“Because there are a lot of people who can’t visualize what it could look like. What they see out there is what they think it’s going to be, and it’s really not,” McKitrick said.

Some residents are for it, and some are against it. But there is one thing both sides seem to agree on.

“The first thing that was a frustration was a lack of transparency from the Ennis town council. We cannot find that it was ever voted on,” Merrill explained.

“A lot of the negative around everything that’s happening is how it came about. Not everyone was included or asked or informed. I think the town’s probably learned a really valuable lesson there about being better about communication,” McKitrick said.

We will continue to follow this story as it develops.

MTN News reached out to Mayor Leavitt and Commissioner Roberts, but both were unavailable.