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By mid-May, the city should own all the downtown land that it needs to build a new library, even if the proposed library isn’t a done deal yet.

City and Billings Clinic officials announced Monday night at a City Council work session that they had tentatively agreed on a land swap that would trade clinic land at Sixth Avenue North and North 29th to the city in exchange for several city blocks closer to the clinic.

City Administrator Tina Volek said the council would vote on the land swap on May 9, while the Billings Clinic board was slated to consider the matter next week, said Billings Clinic Foundation President Jim Duncan.

If the swap is approved, the city would receive 31,080 square feet of property at the corner of Sixth Avenue North and North 29th, which is adjacent to the current Parmly Billings Library. It is also the preferred site for a new library, something that voters will have to approve in November.

Street closures

In return, the clinic will receive street closures on Ninth Avenue North between North 28th and North 29th Streets, and most of North 28th Street between Seventh Avenue North and 11th Avenue North. Their land acquisition totals 114,000 square feet.

There won’t be any money involved in the deal because both sides agreed that their parcels are worth $1.34 million each.

If voters don’t approve a bond issue for a new library, the new city property could still be used for parking at the old library, Volek said.

In other business, Volek told the council that it would be unwise to hire an outside company to help negotiate contracts with city employees.

As part of her annual performance review in 2010, council members had asked Volek to look into hiring outside help for the three contracts that will be negotiated this year. The city had negotiated one contract a year in recent years, but council members wanted all three contracts to expire at once this year.

Volek said two companies replied to a request for proposals, but the estimated cost of their services ranged from $57,000 to $76,000.

Contract negotiations

Volek said an already existing management committee knew the issues better and would do a good job in contract negotiations with the city’s police, firefighters and Teamsters unions.

Volek said that hiring an outside company wouldn’t save much money because city management would still be needed at the bargaining table.

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Contact Matt Hagengruber at mhagengruber@billingsgazette.com or 657-1261.

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