Tuesday’s Billings City Council work session will begin with the swearing in of Mayor-elect Bill Cole and three new council members — Denise Joy, Frank Ewalt and Penny Ronning.

The work session, a day later than normal because of the New Year’s Day holiday, begins at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

Once the four new elected officials are seated, the council will, among other agenda items, hear an update on the city’s integrated water plan, which considers irrigation water, drinking water, wastewater and stormwater together.

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Water intake

Yellowstone County's oil refineries, a power plant and sewage treatment and municipal water plants are along the banks of the Yellowstone River. The Billings water intake is just south of downtown.

The city’s water reclamation facility is currently being upgraded to satisfy more stringent nitrogen and phosphorus rules for discharging into the Yellowstone River.

Public works officials and the city’s contract engineering firms, HDR and Land Design Inc., have met with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in order to give state regulators “better data to make a decision” on the standards that will be applied for putting water into the river.

Tuesday’s report says that preliminary modeling of the river indicates that further reduction of nitrogen into the river “may not be important. If additional sampling supports this, more than $100 million in improvements would be avoided.”

The most pressing need coming out of the Integrated Plan is for drinking water. The city’s water treatment plant, constructed about a century ago, has a single river intake location and is nearing capacity. Groundwater availability is insufficient, and levels are dropping. The water beneath the 2,800 feet of shale beneath Billings is of poor quality.

The Integrated Plan seeks two levels of support from the council: constructing a West End raw water storage reservoir and water treatment plant, and pursuing water quality work in the Yellowstone River.

Chambers audio/visual upgrade

On Jan. 22, council members are scheduled to decide on a contract designed to upgrade the audio/visual system in the chambers they share with Municipal Court.

Three proposals are included in the council’s Friday packet:

  • At about $97,000, the least expensive proposal addresses audio needs only. It includes 14 replacement wireless microphones, four replacement wired mics, two hand-held wireless mics, ceiling speakers and hearing assistive devices.
  • The second proposal costs about $163,000. It includes all of the above as well as video conferencing audio and video functions, an additional projector and motorized projection screen, a larger flat-panel monitor, additional video outputs for monitor connection for the judge and the witness stand and a flat- panel screen with speakers to be installed in the lobby to address occasions involving audience overflow.
  • With a price tag of about $178,000, the third proposal includes everything in the first two proposals as well as an audience ceiling tile mic for jury voir dire (preliminary examination of prospective jurors), an additional wireless mic, two lapel mics, digital signage equipment and a seven-inch touchscreen control panel.

AVI Systems Inc. of Sioux Falls, South Dakota is the city’s consultant.

Tuesday's meeting also includes discussion of a franchise contract with Bresnan Communications. Material on the contract was not included in the Friday packet.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.