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The Billings City Council is set to decide Monday just how large an appropriation to authorize for the proposed expansion of the police evidence facility.

Monday’s business meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

A memo from Police Chief Rich St. John offers the council three alternatives for expanding the facility at the Billings Operations Center, which is overcrowded, has safety concerns and lacks the facilities to meet accreditation requirements of the International Association for Property Evidence.

Those expansion options are:

  • A five-year option, which some council members have said might prove inadequate in the long term. That expansion option, according to Schutz Foss Architects, will cost an estimated $2.7 million.
  • A 10-year expansion, the option recommended by police, with an estimated cost of about $3.2 million. The department recommends the council approve up to $325,000 in design fees in the current budget, with construction costs to be requested as part of the 2019-20 budget.
  • A 20-year expansion would cost about $4.2 million. The police recommendation includes adding parts of the 20-year plan, if that’s the council’s preference, as well as reinserting the evidence facility back into the Capital Improvement Plan.

The council’s final piece of business Monday is to approve the list of finalists for the city administrator position, which will be vacant upon Bruce McCandless’ retirement on Nov. 16. The council met in closed session Wednesday to pare the list of semifinalists.

Also scheduled for consideration Monday is a nearly $3.6 million system development fee that ExxonMobil Corp. must pay prior to the Billings refinery connecting to the city’s wastewater system. System development fees, said Public Works Director Dave Mumford in a memo, are one-time fees that are assessed on new connections to provide adequate funding for growth-related capital improvements.

The council’s also scheduled to decide on a special review request that will allow Blaze Pizza restaurant, 316 S. 24th St. West, part of a Rimrock Mall parcel, to operate with a beer and wine license without gaming despite being less than 600 feet from the playground at Stewart Park and from Central Heights Elementary School.

In a staff report, Planning Director Monica Plecker said that the pizza restaurant is situated far enough from the park and school to meet the separation requirement. But because it’s part of the mall’s 36-acre parcel, when measuring from property line to property line, it’s considered less than 600 feet away from the park and the school. Both the park and the school have barriers that separate them from the restaurant, Plecker noted.

Planning staff and the Zoning Commission both recommend the council waive the 600-foot separation requirement and approve the special review.

The council will consider a zone change request — from Neighborhood Commercial to Community Commercial — on a 0.91-acre parcel at 2015 Blue Creek Road. Jeff Essmann told the Zoning Commission earlier this month that the zone change will allow construction of a 5,000 square foot addiction to the existing water service building. Essmann told the commission he’s had several inquiries from parties interested in locating there, including a veterinarian.

The Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approving the requested zone change.

In addition, the council will decide whether to grant reduced arterial fees for 169 owners of either commercial property or manufactured homes. If approved, the move will mean the city will collect about $11,000 less than if the parcels were assessed according to their zoning, rather than their single-family occupancy.

Monday’s consent agenda includes these items:

  • Approving the purchase of four trucks for the Public Works department, at about $602,000.
  • Awarding a contract worth about $98,000 to Streamline Markings Inc. to stripe and provide road markings at 10 roundabouts.
  • Hiring Ace Electric Inc., at the cost of $690,000, to replace the six consoles that monitor filtering at the Water Treatment Plant.
  • Awarding a contract not to exceed $40,000 to Crowley Fleck for legislative lobbyist services for a year, with the opportunity to extend for four two-year options.
  • Approving a Billings Industrial Revitalization District board of directors recommendation to allocate $40,000 in tax increment finance funds to provide financial assistance to East Billings property owners who want to plant trees and make irrigation improvements along the street frontage of their property.
  • Approving a $225,000 loan from the Downtown Revolving Loan Fund to RYM Properties LLC to renovate and remodel the building at 2610 Montana Ave.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.