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Billings City Council chambers.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

On Monday, the Billings City Council will restart its efforts to hire a new city administrator, this time with four new Council members — Penny Ronning, Denise Joy, Frank Ewalt and Mayor Bill Cole.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 220 N. 27th St. Hitting the reset button on last month’s failed selection is the evening’s final item of business.

Last month, the council voted 10-0 to offer the city’s top position to Great Falls City Manager Greg Doyon. But a council committee could not reach agreement with Doyon on salary differences, leading Doyon to remove himself from consideration.

Billings’ acting city administrator, Bruce McCandless, has held the interim top position since Oct. 1, the day after Tina Volek retired as city administrator. Before that, McCandless was assistant city administrator.

For council consideration, Human Resources Director Karla Stanton lays out six alternatives, adding that staff believes the first three are “problematic”:

  • Contact the three remaining finalists to determine if any are still interested in the Billings job, then attempt to negotiate a contract with one of those finalists.
  • Immediately begin recruiting a new city administrator with the help of the executive search firm the council used last time, The Mercer Group.
  • Immediately begin the recruiting process using another search firm.
  • Continue with the interim city administrator assignment and delay recruiting indefinitely.
  • Enter into an agreement with McCandless as city administrator for a set term, then recruit and hire an assistant city administrator and, finally, recruit a new city administrator before the contract term with McCandless concludes.
  • Recruit and contract with an individual as city administrator for a year or two, then recruit a longer-term city administrator before the end of the contract term.

Among the challenges for council that staffers foresee, according to Stanton: “Negative media reports from the previous recruitment may inhibit some qualified managers from applying for the job.”

Staff recommends the council “take some time to discuss and agree on a selection process and schedule” and “consider surveying other cities and use professional associations to help it decide what salary and benefits it is willing to offer to a selected candidate.”

Re-enlisting The Mercer Group to continue the search will cost an estimated $15,000 to $20,000; hiring another search firm will cost an estimated $20,000 to $25,000. According to Stanton, hiring a short-term city administrator would cost $12,000 to $15,000 per month.

The council is also scheduled to decide whether to endorse an ad-hoc committee recommendation that Art House Cinema & Pub manage the Babcock Theatre, 2812 Second Ave. N.

In addition, council will determine which of its members will sit on a handful of boards and commissions during 2018.

After public hearings, the council is scheduled to make three decisions:

  • Approving a $1.8 million resolution authorizing MET Transit to apply for a Federal Transit Administration grant to help cover operating costs.
  • Authorizing 2017-18 budget amendments totaling about $4.4 million. The money will go toward sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements on Midland Road, the Poet Streets and Central Avenue, as well as on two special improvement districts — one to pay for street lights in the East Billings Urban Renewal District, the other for parks and lights in the Annafeld Subdivisions off Elysian Road south of the Interstate. Each of the last two is a special improvement district that the council will be asked to approve as part of the consent agenda.
  • Approving annexation and special use for a five-acre parcel at 301 Orchard Lane.

Monday’s consent agenda includes these items:

  • A transfer of nearly $44,000 from the council’s contingency fund to help pay for audio and video upgrades in council chambers, which by day is set up for Municipal Court.
  • Approval for about $45,000 in tax increment financing to Slow River LLC of Bozeman to demolish and help redevelop property at 119 and 123 N. 19th Street in the EBURD.
  • An OK for $40,000 from the Downtown Revolving Loan Committee to The Sassy Biscuit Co. at 115 N. 29th St., which owner Jilan Hall-Johnson tentatively plans to open in February.
  • Approval of a grant application of up to $45,000 to install a restroom at the Shiloh Conservation Area.
  • Approval of grant applications that could total more than $400,000. If the federal grants are made available, the money would help MET Transit purchase two vans, with the remainder going toward bus replacement.
  • Approve a Feb. 12 public hearing on a $4.2 million project to reconstruct Midland Road with improvements that include curb and gutter, sidewalks and trail. The project is being paid for through several sources, including direct property assessments.


City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.