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Butte-Silver Bow’s top official hopes a meeting Monday night will ultimately lead Uptown business owners to establish a special district that can raise and spend money on area improvements.

Chief Executive Dave Palmer says past efforts at creating a Business Improvement District for Uptown Butte have failed in part because different groups of business owners haven’t come together.

There were concerns about who would be in charge, Palmer said, and “there is mistrust about what the outcome is going to be.”

Several Montana cities have a business improvement district, or BID, where owners essentially tax themselves and spend the money on maintenance, security, promotions, landscaping or other improvements in a specified area.

County officials are holding a public discussion for what they call a “Vision Plan for Historic Uptown Butte” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday in the first-floor Ballroom of the Thornton Building at 65 E. Broadway St.

The goal is to develop a plan for future development of Uptown by first determining community objectives through open discussions. Uptown business owners, renters and homeowners are all encouraged to attend.

“The purpose of the meeting is to get everyone on the same page so they are moving in the same direction with the same vision,” Palmer said.

He hopes the effort ultimately leads to a BID, and to assist in that, Monday night’s meeting will be led by Patrick Sullivan, director of the state’s Professional Development Center. Among other things, according to its website, the center facilitates meetings for organizations so they don’t get “mired in conflicts, power games, hidden agendas, personality differences or lack of direction.”

Palmer hopes a facilitator can bring everyone together.

“He has no skin in the game and should be fair to everyone,” he said.

A phone message was left with Sullivan’s office number Wednesday seeking comment and more information.

BIDs can be established if the owners of more than 60 percent of an area’s property parcels sign a petition and the proposed district boundaries do not include areas zoned primarily for residential use.

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They then establish a board that can levy property taxes and decide how the money is to be spent. Montana law spells out numerous steps and requirements involved in setting up and administering a district.

The district board decides how much it wants to raise and spend each year on making improvements.

“They can hire additional security or do different things or do cleanups together,” Palmer said. “They can use money for flower baskets on light poles or even change the light poles to make it look more like a business district. The idea is to get them working together.”

Billings, Great Falls, Missoula and Livingston are among Montana cities with BIDs.

The one in Livingston began in 2011 when enough property owners signed a petition and the Livingston City Commission authorized a district. Its current annual budget for improvements is $42,000, according to its website.

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Government and politics reporter

Mike Smith is a reporter at the Montana Standard with an emphasis on government and politics.

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