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A cornerstone

The cornerstone on what used to be the Masonic Temple at North Broadway and Third Avenue North shows the Masonic symbol, with its compass and square. The Masons want to lay a cornerstone for the new Billings Public Library, but with a stone featuring a much smaller reference to the Masons.

Proposed changes to local ordinances dealing with noise, nuisances and going-out-of-business sales will be considered by the Billings City Council on Monday night.

There will be public hearings on all three proposals. The council will also vote on a resolution to increase water and wastewater rates. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the second floor of City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

Not on the agenda but likely to be brought up is a reconsideration of a decision made at the last meeting -- when the council voted 5-4 to turn down the donation of a cornerstone for the new library from the Masonic Fraternity.

Councilman Rich McFadden was absent at that meeting and said he plans to move for reconsideration of the vote. Reconsideration can be requested either by a member of the prevailing side of a vote or a member who was not present for the vote.

City Attorney Brent Brooks said that if a majority approves the motion to reconsider, the item would be added to the agenda at a future meeting so there is time to give advance public notice of the new vote.

The noise provisions in city code were enacted in 1967, according to a staff memo to the council, and sound level limitations in the code "have proven outdated and unworkable, as typical ambient noise is often louder than current standards at both daytime and nighttime limits."

The proposed changes would amend sound level limits, clarify and specify noise waiver procedures and allow increased sound levels in various zoning classifications beginning at 7 a.m., rather than 8 a.m., at the request of the construction industry.

As for the nuisance portion of the code, the proposed ordinance would clarify the criminal penalties and civil remedies, provide a more specific definition of nuisance, and give the city more power to act "in emergency abatement situations where the property owner is unwilling to act or cannot be located."

The ordinance would also provide alternative methods of serving a 10-day notice, which must be served before a civil action can be pursued against a property owner who violates the code.

The changes having to do with going-out-of-business sales would expand the definition of going out of business to include retirement and loss of lease and eliminate the requirement of a "detailed inventory" from a business about to conduct such a sale.

It would also limit a going-out-of-business sale to 90 days, with no extensions, and would add a new section prohibiting false advertising.

The proposed increases in water and wastewater fees would generate an additional $245,000 in water revenues and $754,000 in wastewater revenues. 

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I cover the city of Billings.