BILLINGS - Billings Mayor Bill Cole said Wednesday the state of the city is “good, bordering on excellent.”
The annual Chamber of Commerce event was held in front of a packed ballroom at the Northern Hotel. The setting was far different than a year ago during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, Cole said: “The pandemic brought uncertainty in the community and pain for those who lost love ones, including a loss in my family.”
Fifteen months later “we are fundamentally optimistic today,” the mayor said
Cole encouraged people to get the coronavirus vaccine as the Yellowstone County rate lags behind the state and national average.
Cole said the number one priority for Billings is public safety.
“Billings has a crime problem, we all know it,” he said.
He showed a national website that gave Billings a grade F as a community for crime. Cole said the city is committed to improving downtown safety, improve traffic safety, and making investments in mental health.
He is encouraged by the concept of adding a social services worker to some emergency calls where they can assist law enforcement.
Cole announced plans to bring forward a proposed $6.4 million public safety mill levy. It will be introduced to the city council in June and could go before voters in November. The levy would cost the average homeowner around $96 per year.
Cole said highlights include the ongoing expansion at the Billings Airport. The $60 million project should be complete by the end of the year. He added airport traffic remains down about 25% compared to the record-breaking year of 2019.
Cole announced water rates will go up for all city residents. With the addition of the west end reservoir, the city’s emergency water supply goes from 5-10 hours to 4 months.