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Looking at a price tag that falls about $5 million short of being what Yellowstone County can afford, county commissioners asked consultants to restructure their recommendations so that the improvements to Rimrock Auto Arena may be done in two phases.
After reviewing, on Thursday, the ideas, designs and cost estimates presented by Populous and CTA Architects, it became readily apparent that while insurance is expected to cover an approximate $16 million of costs, an additional $8.8 million that the county would have to pick up, is more than double the budget the county has set aside to address the rebuilding of the arena, following the damage it suffered from a tornado.
A report regarding damages to other buildings at Metra Park concludes that more roofs need to be replaced.
The Father’s Day Tornado damaged the Expo Center roof to an extent that it will have to be completely replaced and half the Montana Pavilion roof will need to be replaced. Roofs of a few other smaller buildings will also need repair, as well as some siding and interiors, damaged because of leaking roofs.
Cost estimates are not yet available, but all of the repairs should be covered by insurance, according to County Director of Finance Scott Turner. Turner said that the repairs are likely to be done under a separate bid package, separate from that of Rimrock Auto Arena.
Enhancements to Rimrock Auto Arena will include improved acoustics and a better sound system, as well as more office space.
Yellowstone County Commissioners approved, almost $1.5 million in enhancements to the arena. They approved expenditures — above and beyond insurance reimbursements — an additional $434,910 for improved acoustics and $405,000 for subwoofers and amplifiers, which are part of an improved sound system.
They also chose from among one of four design options offered by CTA Architects, and underscored their desire for increased office space by approving the additional expenditure of $205,328 for office space, sooner than need be. Also, approved was an additional $73,000 for an improved elevator.
A visioning effort to identify common goals in the community and a focal point for community effort is continuing with the development of trails, a mini-master plan, and a proposed convention center emerging as priorities, among a diverse coalition of leadership groups in Billings.
Saying that he was “disturbed” at the Planning Department’s lack of response to the county commissioners’ directives, Commissioner Bill Kennedy voted against increasing fees for the planning department. Last week, County Commissioners passed, in a 2-1 vote, a request from Planning to increase the fees, but not without a couple of major changes to their proposal.
Commissioner Jim Reno proposed an amendment that actually decreased the permit fees imposed on commercial signs, and eliminated a proposed new fee on inquiries to the Planning Department.
Story update at end)
The City/County Planning Board, in its capacity as the Billings Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), has applied for a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which would facilitate “sustainable” planning of the greater Yellowstone Park region, in a national effort to solidify federal centralization of land-use planning and economic development.
In doing so the Planning Board expressed its support of an organization called the Yellowstone Business Partnership, (YBP) a regional consortium of public and private organizations, with the goal of coordinating planning and development efforts throughout a tri-state area of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, as the states surround Yellowstone National Park.
In protest over the City County Planning Board’s decision to apply for a federal grant that will be a step toward centralized federal planning, the Chairman of the Board, Bill Iverson, has resigned his position. The City County Planning Board also serves as the board for the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which is the capacity in which they were functioning, a couple weeks ago, when in a three to two vote, the board approved applying for a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As chairman of the board Iverson was required to sign a letter which also voiced support of the Yellowstone Business Partnership.
In resigning Iverson said, “I wanted to make as big a statement as I could.” He said that he didn’t like seeing his signature at the end of the letter. “That is not who I am,” he said.
Iverson said that he didn’t believe that the board had enough time to consider the issue. It was not on the agenda. The document associated with the purpose of the grant was quite large, he said, and he was the only board member who even got to glance at it.The “Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant” is made available to advance the joint effort of HUD, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. Their newly created inter-agency “Partnership for Sustainable Communities” has been acclaimed as “the first time the federal government will speak with one voice when it comes to housing, transportation and environmental policy.” Following is the resignation letter Iverson submitted to Candi Beaudry, head of the Planning Department:
“I have thoroughly enjoyed representing Ward 1 on the City/County Planning Board over the last 5-1/2 years, especially the last 1-1/2 years as president of this board.
As you are aware, I have always been concerned about the continuing encroachments that the never-ending rules and regulations have on the general public. This creates an increase in costs and decreases the opportunity for the average Montanan to own and enjoy their private property.
Due in part to the philosophical differences I have with the current planning trends, especially the ill-prepared decision that the planning board recently made concerning the Yellowstone Business Partnership which I vehemently opposed, I immediately resign from my position as president and member of the City/County Planning Board.
The common assertion, that people move to Lockwood in order to avoid high taxes will have to be reconsidered in light of data that compares the level of taxation in Lockwood to other communities.
Lockwood property owners, on a $150,000 home, pay $1,537.68 in total taxes, compared to $1,372.98 in Billings and $1,511.82 in Laurel. Mills levied in Lockwood (covering fire district, state, county and school property taxes) are 704.43, while those levied in Laurel and Billings which also cover the cost of city administration are 672.44 and 624.18, respectively.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103