The Montana Department of Transportation has decided to stop contracting with the city of Billings for the maintenance of state roads within the city.
Public Works Director Dave Mumford told the City Council earlier this week that the state will take over those maintenance chores starting July 1. The decision affects 75 lane miles of roadway in the city, on state routes that include 27th Street, Main Street, Montana and State avenues, First Avenue North and Laurel Road.
Mumford said the city has done snowplowing, sweeping, striping and storm drain maintenance on those streets for more than a decade, but the MDT decided it could do the job cheaper on its own.
“They’re facing, just like everybody else, significant budget cuts,” Mumford said.
The decision will reduce the city’s street maintenance budget by $512,000 in the fiscal year that starts July 1, and if all else stays the same, the city would have to lay off four workers, Mumford said.
What could change is the amount of money in that budget. As part of setting the budget for the new year, the City Council, when it meets Monday night, will consider raising fees for street maintenance and arterial and residential snowplowing.
City officials had recommended raising the street maintenance fee by 2.5 percent, but council members talked about raising it 5 percent during a work session Monday. There are also proposals to raise fees for arterial snow removal by 4.5 percent and residential snowplowing by 12 percent.
Mumford reminded council members that his department maintains 33 percent more lane miles than it did 10 years ago, and now has fewer employees than it did five years ago.
Lori Ryan, the public information officer for the state transportation department, said the Billings district office of the MDT already maintains 450 lane miles of roadway in the district outside the city. Adding another 75 lane miles won’t require any new workers or equipment, she said, and the department is confident it can perform all the work being done by the city.
Contact Ed Kemmick at email@example.com or 657-1293.