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Fire department training

Billings Fire Department staff members learn all of the systems on the new 100-foot ladder truck at Fire Station Number One in this February 2016 file photo.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

A new master plan for the Billings Fire Department recommends construction of a new fire station or two — or, optimally, two new stations and the possible relocation of existing facilities to better serve Billings’ growing and increasingly spread-out population.

The City Council will learn more about the study during a work session beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 220 N. 27th St. Because of the President's Day holiday Monday, the work session is a day later than normal.

The council will open the meeting by swearing in its newest member, Reg Gibbs, a Ward 4 representative. Mayor Bill Cole selected Gibbs over nine other applicants, announcing his selection Feb. 12. The council ratified Cole’s choice by an 8-2 vote.

Reg Gibbs


Gibbs succeeds Ryan Sullivan, who resigned last month to move to Houston. Gibbs’ council term extends through Dec. 31, 2019.

Fire station plan

Emergency Services Consulting International of Wilsonville, Oregon, has developed a long-range master plan for the Fire Department. The plan includes a number of non-facility proposals, including changing firefighters’ work week, hiring additional support staff and beefing up the department’s Fire Prevention Bureau.

Scenarios for sighting and constructing new fire stations are included in the plan’s long-term strategies. They include no timetable for completion.

The first scenario adds an additional fire station in the Heights, in the area of Hilltop Road and Topaz Avenue. That addition would boost from 86 percent to about 90 percent the number of 2017 incidents that would have received a response in four minutes or less, the standard of the National Fire Protection Association.

Adding one fire station would require additional firefighter staffing of at least 24 plus a battalion chief. The city “will need to balance the cost of building and staffing a new station against the relative gains achieved by the response reliability improvement,” the plan states.

Under the second scenario, a second new fire station, in addition to the new Heights station, would be constructed in the West End, at S. 48th Street West north of Hesper Road. That would boost the four-minute-or-less response time to 92 percent of incidents and would improve coverage to a portion of the Billings Urban Fire Service Area that’s beyond the four-minute coverage area.

In addition, it could contribute to a reduction in fire insurance rates through an improved Insurance Services Office fire rating.

At least 27 firefighters and a battalion chief would be necessary to staff the new stations, depending on the firefighting equipment placed in the new stations.

The third scenario adds the two new stations and utilizes a mix of current stations, relocated stations and new station locations to distribute nine stations throughout the city. Ninety-six percent of the 2017 service demand is within four minutes' travel or less.


A presentation highlights the recycling services that the city provides.

A yard waste program collected nearly 6,300 tons of yard waste last year and served 18,000 residential customers. A household hazardous waste program collects paint, cleaners, pesticides, anti-freeze, oil, metals and other hazardous products. A methane gas program collects and processes nearly 194,000 million feet of cubic gas — enough to heat 2,400 houses — and adds $280,000 per year to the city’s general fund.

Billings’ 40 percent recycling participation rate is on par with other communities, including Boise, Idaho.

Water and wastewater rates

The Public Works Department seeks guidance from the council about whether to leave intact the rate structure for water users, which charges more for the relatively small number of homeowners who require large amounts of water each summer to keep their lawns green.

As the department prepares to embark on a new water and wastewater study, it’s asking the council whether to modify the current rate tier structure.

If that’s what the council wants to do, staff will work with the rate consultant to design a rate structure that meets council goals.

The council must decide what will be the primary goal of redesigning the rate structure. Possibilities include:

  • Conservation promotion.
  • Affordability for low income residents.
  • Affordability for large users.
  • Revenue stability.
  • Ease of customer understanding.

Interim city administrator

A draft employment contract for Bruce McCandless, the city’s acting city administrator, calls for an annual base salary of $165,000, the same salary as the city’s last permanent city administrator, Tina Volek, was paid. If the council approves the contract, McCandless will also receive $3,600 annually for a vehicle allowance.

McCandless can terminate the agreement with a 90-day written notice. The agreement states McCandless plans to resign as city administrator on Dec. 31 — or earlier, if the city recruits and names a permanent successor to Volek before then, as an included timeline suggests.

McCandless can be fired without cause by a majority of the city council. The council can also terminate the agreement for cause if McCandless fails to “satisfactorily perform job duties” or exhibits conduct “prejudicial to the city or city council,” such as being convicted of or pleading to a felony.

If he’s terminated involuntarily and without cause, McCandless will be paid a maximum of six months’ salary.

Downtown Billings strategic plan

The Downtown Billings Alliance plans to roll out its strategic plan at 8 o'clock Tuesday morning at the Billings Public Library, then present the document to the council during the work session.

The plan has five goals and priorities:

  • Initiatives "that permeate the culture, economy and physical environment of downtown" — and will last.
  • Downtown housing to help meet the plan's goal of a vibrant, prosperous downtown.
  • A model destination "where the entire community can come together, without prejudice, to learn and celebrate the variety of cultures."
  • Multi-modal streets and connectivity to encourage residents and visitors to walk and cycle between destinations.
  • Mixed-use multi-anchor development including a new convention center and a health and wellness district, as envisioned by the One Big Sky Center project. 


City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.