It’s pretty safe to say that downtown Helena is a big draw for the capital city. There are places to shop, places to eat, places to grab a drink but when you ask about parking you might get a few different answers.
Some of them are good.
“I think they do a good job, and keeping the flow moving,” said the owner of Wild Child Collective downtown, Amanda Glass
Some of them, well, not so good.
As one downtown business owner told me off camera, the current parking set-up is not what they were told it would be and their business has suffered because of it. And they weren’t the only ones with criticism of parking here.
Regardless of people's opinions, it's clear parking in downtown Helena is necessary.
"It’s needed," added Glass. "It keeps us businesses bringing in more customers versus people parking out front all day, just leaving their vehicles there."
Parking downtown is maintained by people like Helena Parking Control Officer Jim Hallauer.
“I kind of think of myself as an ambassador,” noted Hallauer.
As a parking enforcement officer, Hallauer hits the streets every day. Yes, giving out tickets but his job is much more than that.
"We’re just here mainly to help people," said Jim. "We assist people in giving directions to the capital building, to restaurants, to the interstate, just basically, we’re to help people.”
That can be hard to think about sometimes if you are the one on the receiving end of a ticket. Tim Nickerson told me, it’s safety they are concerned with.
“ It’s imperative that we take the public safety into concern," said Nickerson. "If a vehicle is obstructing the visibility of a motorist or pedestrian at a crosswalk, it’s our job to make sure those things aren’t happening and that those items are cited. Taking that safety into concern as a priority.”
Tim pointed out that there are several lots around town that offer free 1-hour parking and other options.
But all those lots and others need to be maintained.
"Parking is a department that supplies itself. So basically, of all the five parking garages, 12 city parking lots we just kind of maintain and operate the funds that come in from the parking," said Tim. "It’s not a department supported by either the general fund or property taxes. And one of our biggest things is to make sure our properties are always clean and safe. We have a staff that comes through them every morning, and it’s important to keep those up. So, when you have properties like that to maintain you have parking fees that contribute to that."