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A well head used for collecting methane gas at the Billings land

A well head used for collecting methane gas at the Billings landfill is one of 43 that Montana-Dakota Utilities has there.

Turning methane into natural gas at the Billings landfill will probably remain a profitable proposition for Billings, the Billings City Council learned Monday.

Larry Oswald, the manager of business development and marketing for Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., said the city’s 2015 share of the revenue from the plant, opened in December 2010, is expected to be $250,000 — about the same amount that’s been generated over the four previous years combined.

City staff “has worked with us to get gas production up,” he said. “Less than a handful of plants can turn (methane) into pipeline-quality natural gas.”

This is the first year the company expects to turn a profit from the plant, which cost $10 million to construct.

“We thank the MDU group for working with us on this,” said City Administrator Tina Volek. “The revenue goes into the general fund and it’s very much appreciated.”

Community conversations

The City Council set Nov. 4-5 and Nov. 10 and 12 for community conversations that will occur in each of the city’s five wards. Sites for the meetings will be announced.

Two or three topics will be selected from a number of suggestions by a committee of city staff and by City Council members, including road safety, the city charter, the growth policy, what questions should be asked on the citizen survey, whether the city needs a public information officer, how the city can better utilize social media, local option or gas tax options and airport expansion.

“That list will have to be narrowed down,” Mayor Tom Hanel said, “unless we want to bring our sleeping bags.”

Tom Zurbuchen of Billings urged officials to be well-prepared and ready to listen.

“If you don’t give people answers, the conversation dies,” he said. “Who wants to go listen to a lecture?”

Technology update

Chief Technology Officer David Watterson said technology upgrades are planned that will save staff time and provide better service for residents. A new mobile app, for example, will allow for mobile fire inspections beginning next spring.

“(Firefighters) would just as soon have it today,” Watterson said.

Other upgrades planned for February 2016 will enhance the filing of civil papers and improve the city’s Geographic Information System capabilities.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.