BILLINGS – Billings City Council members showed their support for the proposed One Big Sky District plan- despite ending the city’s contract with Landmark Development last month.
Council members voted unanimously Monday night to draft a letter showing their support for a bill in the Legislature that is expected to be heard next week in Helena. The bill would provide a means for state funding to match private investment for similar projects in Billings and other cities.
The Council had initially voted in February to approve a development plan for One Big Sky, a massive redevelopment of downtown Billings aimed at attracting new businesses and residents.
Then, in a surprise move a few weeks later, council members voted to end the city’s contract with developer Landmark, effectively ending the relationship with the project’s largest private investor.
Thes events all took place while a Billings lawmaker, Sen. Roger Webb, has been attempting to garner support in Helena for a bill to boost the project.
Council members also approved a list of their top priorities for the coming year.
The Council mapped these priorities out at couple previously held work sessions, ranking them as high, medium, and low.
Topping on the list: improving the safety of Billings.
According to its priorities, the Council wants to, “improve law enforcement capabilities.”
Council members plan to do this by setting a standard for what a safe Billings looks like.
They want to improve Billings’ safety ranking compared to other Montana peer cities, like Bozeman, Missoula, Helena, etc. Also, the Council plans to improve citizens sense of safety in neighborhoods, downtown, and parks.
Those rankings will be compared to FBI statistics and National Citizen Survey results.
Another priority: Making it easier for police to investigate human trafficking in places like massage parlors in Billings.
Council member Penny Ronning says that it is a matter of having laws for police to actually enforce.
“What I often hear on City Council is from members of the public, ‘why is the city not shutting them down.’ Well, the issue with that is that we have to have laws in order for law enforcement to get through those doors. Right now in Montana we have very loose laws. We are working on an ordinance that will address that at a city level. We need to have good law in place for law enforcement to be able to do something,” Ronning said.
Other top priorities were One Big Sky, a successful 2019 legislature, west end reservoir and water treatment projects, and to complete Project Recode.
Click here for a complete list of priorities.