Billings City Council mulls fee increases and development charges Tuesday

2014-05-27T00:00:00Z 2014-05-27T12:40:04Z Billings City Council mulls fee increases and development charges TuesdayBy MIKE FERGUSON mferguson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Hearings on proposed fee increases for planning services as well as water and wastewater rate hikes are on the agenda for Tuesday’s Billings City Council meeting.

Also up for a hearing and a vote will be a proposed annexation and a system development fee to connect the Phillips 66 Billings Refinery to the city’s wastewater system.

Tuesday’s meeting, which is being held a day later than usual because of the Memorial Day holiday Monday, is set for 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at city hall.

Proposed increases in water rates are designed to help the city’s Public Works Department sustain its capital improvements program and provide adequate revenue in the wastewater fund for the wastewater treatment plant reconstruction required to meet state and federal regulations. Department officials presented the proposed increases during the city council’s April 21 work session.

Two options for rate hikes are being considered, both of which will produce about $9.8 million in annual revenue. Tier 1 and Tier 2 water users — the vast majority of Billings water consumers — would see their rates increase by 10 cents and 47 cents, respectively, per 100 cubic feet of monthly water use, or 748 gallons, under city staff’s preferred alternative.

The Planning Division proposes a 7 percent fee increase for services that planners provide to help offset increases in operations and maintenance as well as personnel costs. Planners last raised their fees, by 4 percent, in 2013.

The city council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on annexation and a zone change on a 19.5-acre parcel near the intersection of Grand Avenue and 56th Street West.

The proposed system development fee, to be paid by the Phillips 66 Billings Refinery, will generate one-time revenue of about $1.7 million for the wastewater fund and about $66,000 in franchise fees for the general fund. In a memo, Dave Mumford, public works director, described SDFs as “one-time fees that are assessed on new connections and are necessary to provide adequate funding for growth related capital improvements.”

At the outset of Tuesday’s meeting, the city council will deal with a lengthy consent agenda. Among those items:

A proposed delay, until June 9, in awarding the contract to construct a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks at 25th Street. Mumford said that staff needs more time to evaluate the bids. There’s no city funding involved in the project.

Awarding of an approximately $2.7 million contract to replace water mains and make related improvements on North 27th Street between Montana Avenue and Fourth Avenue North and on North 27th Street between Fourth Avenue North and Sixth Avenue North.

Approval of about $52,000 in tax increment financing assistance for Castlerock Excavating for demolition of a blighted building at 1301 Montana Avenue and infrastructure improvements within the East Billings Urban Renewal District.

Awarding of a $1.04 million bid for the airport ramp rehabilitation project, mainly funded by the Federal Aviation Administration. The project includes maintenance repairs to Runway 7/25 for what Tom Binford, director of aviation and transit, called “abnormally large lateral asphalt cracks.” Those costs will be borne by local taxpayers.

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