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Leaders say Billings and Yellowstone County are strong, but face challenges

Posted at 7:17 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:48:41-04

BILLINGS- Billings and Yellowstone County are strong but both have challenges.

That was the message from the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s state of the city-county luncheon at the Doubletree By Hilton on Wednesday.

Billings Mayor Bill Cole said the city has money for big projects but faces a financial challenge with both the general and public safety funds.

Yellowstone County Commissioner Denis Pitman talked about the growing issues of drug abuse and mental illness.

He said revitalizing and remodeling the jail has gone well and the county expects to have the jail fully operating in about two months.

And although there are no investors in the proposed One Big Sky District and a bill aimed at bringing state money to the downtown redevelopment plan died in the 2019 Legislature, Pitman and Cole focused on the positives.

“There’s no doubt we need the legislative tools out of Helena in order to make any downtown project like that successful, not just in Billings but in other cities around Montana,” Cole said. “So I’m hoping we’ll take another swing at getting the 406 impact district legislation passed. We came very, very close. It died on a tie vote. There’s blue skies ahead for One Big Sky District.”

Pitman added, “The message for One Big Sky and the whole process is Billings is a good place to do businesses. How that unfolds, whether it be at MetraPark or another plan, I think we have to come to the understanding that Billings is growing and it needs to grow and it has good ideas and we’re welcoming businesses to come here.”

Cole said crime has increased and Pitman said it’s important to look at treatment programs to help with drug and alcohol abuse problems.