BILLINGS — Negotiations will move forward between the city of Billings and WC Commercial to discuss the city moving into three floors and the basement of the Stillwater building.
The council voted Monday 10-2 to approve a committee made up mostly of council members and city staff to begin negotiations with the Alaska-based realty company that currently owns the building.
A facilities master plane done in 2015 identified the need for more space for city department offices. Relocating to the Stillwater Building would also allow the city to consolidate its city offices. The offices are currently spread across five Billings locations.
Negotiations will start around the city leasing or buying about 112,000 square feet of space in the building for $27.7 million. That price includes an estimate of money required to build out the inside of the space to meet the city's needs.
The committee also recommended the city look into hiring a real estate negotiating expert to help guide the city through discussions. The negotiator would be able to tell the city if it's getting the most bang for its buck when it comes to asking price.
The question remains of how the city would pay for the new space.
Billings Mayor Bill Cole noted the current budget structure could only pay for half of the $27.7 million.
The council has yet to decide if it would ask for a portion of the money within a public safety mill levy to fix the current $5.6 million general fund deficit. The council could bring a separate bond issue to voters to pay for the project as well.
Answers to the financing questions could become easier to flesh out after negotiations begin, according to Randy Hafer, committee member and co-owner of High Plains Architects.
“How things get financed will depend on what the deal looks like. Because then there are different options and different circumstances," Hafer said.
If the city were to move into the Stillwater Building, it is not clear yet if it would continue to occupy the current City Hall location at 210 N 27th St.