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Billings parks bond set to be decided on Tuesday

Pioneer Park
Posted at 5:47 PM, Nov 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-06 07:52:33-05

BILLINGS - On Tuesday, the city of Billings will vote on the widely discussed and debated parks bond.

The $143 million bond encompasses 16 different projects, which includes upgrading nine parks, adding six trails and adding a large Rec Center near Amend Park.

Many residents, like Cortland Dunn, are voting in favor of the additional projects and what the upgrades will bring to the community.

"Places like parts bring people together," Dunn said while walking his dog in Pioneer Park. "Parks are important for the kids and for the community."

Dunn said the bond represents the city's effort to increase both the mental and physical health of its residents.

"It's all about community and it's about a healthy community," Dunn said. "It's about getting people outside and enjoying nature. It's imperative that we invest in these things."

Other residents, like Pam Puchalski, are choosing to vote against the bond. Puchalski's primary reason is that she believes the funds should be used to combat other issues the city is facing, specifically safety.

"There's other things I want them to work on," Puchalski said. "Building a million dollar plus Rec Center is not going to curve crime."

Puchalski's safety concerns come at a time when Billings has recently lost four lives in shootings in one week.

"To be honest with you, I was shocked when I woke up today and there wasn't another shooting," Puchalski said. "It's terrible. It's absolutely terrible."

City Councilman Tom Rupsis is a big advocate for the bond and believes it will increase community safety.

"If we're really going to solve this, we have to get on the prevention side," Rupsis said. "The events of the past week are a real tragedy for everyone involved. We have to do those things that let our kids grow up in an environment where they understand they have opportunities."

Rupsis acknowledged that this bond won't solve all of the problems immediately, but he believes voting in favor of it is a step in the right direction.

“Nobody expects our crime rate to go down 20 percent next year because we passed a park bond this year," Rupsis said. "What we’re saying is that prevention is a generational challenge and for generations we’ve neglected this side of our community and we need to do better."

Still, residents like Puchalski are skeptical that this bond is exactly what the community needs.

"The kids that are out there with guns doing these shootings would not have been at a Rec Center," Puchalski said. "The list goes on and on, but at the top of my list is not a Rec Center."