Columbia Falls City Council candidate Darin Fisher takes a pragmatic view toward growth in the city and the job of city council.
“It’s managing growth,” he said in a interview last week. “Growth and tourism are here and they’re here to stay.”
Fisher, 42, has been on the city council for two terms now and is seeking a third.
Fisher and his wife, Carla, own Backslope Brewing on Highway 2, a business that has seen significant growth itself since it opened more than three years ago.
Fisher said he supports a resort tax.
“It’s one mechanism on how we can manage that growth,” he said.
Tourist traffic puts a strain on city services in a variety of ways, from wear and tear on city streets, to increases in police and fire department calls.
For example, as the city grows, it will eventually, under state law, have to have at least a partially paid fire department.
“If we do nothing, residents of Columbia Falls will pay for everything,” he said.
But with a resort tax, the people who drive through, and stay in, the city can foot some of the bill. The resort tax will also have a property tax rebate component as well.
That’s why Fisher says he supports the tax, which admittedly would put a sales tax on items he sells — beer and restaurant meals. (The tax would not apply to groceries.)
Fisher also said the city’s park’s need some work.
“We need infrastructure at several parks right now,” he said.
He said the upfront capital costs on parks pays for itself in the long run.
What can the city do to help small businesses?
“Maintain a positive business environment,” he said.
That includes keeping streets maintained and other services, he noted.
“We’ll take care of the business,” he said.
The city is also building a bit of a nest egg with its tax increment finance district funds. Fisher said some of the money could be used for needed infrastructure. He points to the crosswalks on Nucleus Avenue as an example.
But he also favors saving the bulk of the funding for now so the city can be prepared to help if a big project comes along.
“We need to continue to be forward thinking,” he said.
He likens it to the way he runs his own business. He uses some capital to buy the equipment he needs, but he’s also saving for the future.
The business is doing well. Today it has 45 employees, about half are full-time. The Fishers have two young children, a son, Soren and a girl, Hazel.
He said the current council works well together.
“It’s not very adversarial,” he noted.