Committee takes another look proposed at residency ordinance


MISSOULA, Mont. - Should city officials be required to live in Missoula city limits? The Administration and Finance Committee debated the proposal again Wednesday.

Questions came from city council members and the public, wondering who would be required to live in the city limits and what exceptions, if any, could be made.

It's the fifth draft of an ordinance requiring city department heads and supervisory managers to live within the city limits. There are a dozen listed in the proposal including the City Attorney, City Clerk and City Police Chief.

A state law on the same topic already exists, requiring a list of ‘officers' to live within the city limits where they're employed. That law allows some exceptions, if approved by the town's city council. The Missoula proposal would further define which city officials fall under the category.

Supporters said it makes sense for people who make decisions about the city to have to see the impact of those decisions.

"Our department head jobs are coveted jobs and there's a lot of responsibility and a chance to set policy," said council member Cynthia Wolken. "I think it's a privilege to hold one of those jobs. If an employee feels like it's not the right fit for them and their family to move into the city for a promotion, that's their prerogative."

Opponents of the ordinance argued that people should be able to choose where they want to live. One Missoula resident who spoke up in the public comment portion of the meeting called the ordinance a violation of rights.

"I think you need to take a real close look at this thing. I don't think there's a real problem here," said South Hills resident Gary Beck. "I think this thing ought to be tabled."

Other council members presented their own examples.

"Someone would be working at grocery store and would be required in some sense to do all of their shopping at the grocery store to help contribute to their own salary," said Dave Strohmaier. "I don't see any reason or any justification for requiring any city employee to contribute to their own salary."

"I know that if I was at home 4th of July shooting off fireworks at my own barbeque and then I came in to the city limits later that day, I would sure have a hard time busting people for something I'd just been doing," said Jason Wiener.

The city council will take another look at the ordinance at next Monday's meeting.

To read the ordinance yourself click here.

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