Billings City Council to consider redistricting plan

2013-02-24T23:00:00Z 2013-04-09T07:31:05Z Billings City Council to consider redistricting planBy ED KEMMICK ekemmick@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

In addition to a pair of votes related to the possible construction of a FedEx Ground transportation hub on the West End, the City Council will deal with a long agenda Monday night.

It will include consideration of an ordinance redrawing City Council ward boundaries and another establishing circumstances under which a council member would have to forfeit his or her seat.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

The redistricting of the five City Council wards is being done to better equalize representation for city residents. With a city population of 104,170 as of the 2010 census, the ideal population of each ward would be 20,834.

But under the current districting, Ward 2, which is basically all of the Heights, has a population of 24,845, while Ward 3, encompassing much of central Billings, has a population of just 17,795.

Under the plan developed by city staff and a council subcommittee, ward populations would be much closer, ranging from 20,487 in Ward 5 to 21,275 in Ward 3. 

There will be a public hearing on the ordinance before the vote, and like all ordinances it could not become law unless approved Monday on first reading and again on second reading at the next meeting.

The other ordinance that has a direct bearing on the council would amend city code to establish what steps are to be taken when a council member is unable, unwilling or unfit to perform his or her duties.

A council member's seat is already forfeit if the incumbent dies, resigns, is convicted of a felony or moves out of his or her ward, or, in the case of the mayor, moves out of the city.

To those grounds for forfeiture, the new ordinance would add the inability to fulfill the duties of office because of "a physical illness or mental disorder," failing to perform duties for three consecutive months without the consent of the council, "open neglect or refusal to discharge duties" or conviction of any offense "involving moral turpitude or a violation of official duties."

The council will also take up two measures having to do with the replacement of water slides at the Rose Park pool. It had already authorized spending $270,000 — from the new citywide park district fund — to replace the existing slides.

If it approves a change order to that contract Monday night, another $87,650 will be added to build a higher "speed slide" alongside those being replaced. To pay for the addition, the Parks Department proposes spending $60,000 in cost savings on other projects it had planned to undertake this year.

The remaining $27,650 would come from the council's own contingency fund, which will be voted on separately. If approved, the $27,650 would have to be paid back over the next two years with revenue generated by admission to the slides.

A couple of big-ticket items on the council's consent agenda have to do with the planned repaving of the airport's main runway this summer.

City staff has recommended awarding a contract for the project to Riverside Contracting. It submitted the lowest of three bids, coming in at $7,167,213. The council will also be asked to approve paying Morrison-Maierle Inc. $548,450 to provide engineering services associated with the runway project.

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