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Billings Logan International Airport, 2013

Expanding and modernizing the terminal at Billings Logan International Airport is part of the city's five-year Capital Improvement Plan. City staff seeks public comment on the plan before it's approved by the city council in March 2018.

$409 million.

That’s the annual impact that Billings Logan International Airport has on the local economy, Shane Ketterling, the city’s assistant director of aviation and transit, told the City Council during a budget hearing Monday, citing Montana Department of Transportation data. 

That figure has doubled over the past decade, “and we think it’s a conservative number,” Ketterling said. “It’s really good news.”

The $45 million terminal building expansion, which will take four years to complete, will be designed this coming year at a cost of about $4 million.

American Airlines is nearly ready to establish its new direct service beginning June 2 between Billings and Dallas, with the council set to consider the proposed agreement with the airline during its May 22 meeting.

“We are hearing good things from American,” Ketterling said. “They think it will be very profitable.”

This year about $1.5 million will be spent on two pieces of snow removal equipment that plows and brooms the snow simultaneously. That will place two processes under one equipment operator, helping crews to more efficiently plow runways that are two miles long and 150 feet wide.

MET Transit has boosted its reserve this year from an anticipated $2 million to about $2.9 million, said Kevin Ploehn, aviation and transit director. But the department continues to fall behind schedule purchasing new buses, which cost about $500,000. As a result, mechanics have replaced three engines this year, “and we’re on our fourth transmission," Ploehn said. “It is starting to get expensive to run all this old stuff.”

Council members questioned Michael Whitaker, director of parks, recreation and public lands, on a number of issues, including whether the city could open smaller dog parks more quickly than designing and constructing a large proposed West End dog park at Centennial Park.

The biggest cost for dog park construction, Whitaker replied, is irrigation. If that infrastructure can be installed first, “I would foresee a lot of volunteer groups coming in to make (finishing the dog park) doable.”

Councilman Larry Brewster said he’s visited other communities with smaller dog parks that use sand or gravel rather than grass. “That seems to me a more favorable use of our money,” Brewster said.

Connie Wardell of Billings said she’s seen California dog parks blanketed by artificial turf.

Several council members said they want to revisit a proposed $1.9 million plan to build a new bathhouse at Rose Park. City Administrator Tina Volek said a more detailed presentation will be offered later during budget talks.

Planning and Community Services Director Wyeth Friday outlined a number of supplemental budget requests that Volek has approved. One, for $25,000, will pay a data imaging company to help the department store records electronically that now take up “a lot of room” in storage.

A $75,000 nuisance abatement fund will help to tear down up to five buildings slated for abatement during the coming year. Most of that cost, Friday said, can be assessed on the property, but not all of it.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.