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A request by Bay Ltd. Montana, a fabrication company, to abandon a road easement through its West End property turned into a jobs debate before the Yellowstone County Commission on Tuesday.

The commission ultimately approved the abandonment, despite objections by more than a dozen union workers who claimed that the company wasn't hiring Montanans and therefore didn't merit breaks from the county.

Commissioners said they support creating jobs for Montanans but that the easement was a separate issue.

John Roeber of Butte, business manager for the state's boilermakers, said Bay Ltd. isn't advertising for jobs in Western Montana. Union and nonunion workers would apply if they knew of openings, he said.

Henry Cellmer, a Laurel resident and business manager for Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 30, said the union opposed the easement abandonment because Bay was paying less than the prevailing wage. He suggested the county sell the land, and not give it, to Bay Ltd.

But Commissioner Jim Reno said the county cannot sell land it doesn't own.

Curt Jones, Bay's facility manager, said the company is hiring statewide through Job Service and is focused on hiring Montanans.

The company, previously known as Barry Y&V, came to Billings in 2008 with plans to hire hundreds of workers to build modules used in Canadian oil sands development. The worldwide recession delayed those plans. Meanwhile, the company said it has picked up work in the booming Bakken oil play.

Bay Ltd., located at 2450 S. 32nd St. W., petitioned for abandonment of a road easement on a portion of South 32nd Street West from about 650 feet south of Hesper Road south to the railroad right of way. The easement is on a strip of land that bisects Bay's work yard, said Dennis Randall, of Sanderson Stewart engineers, which represented the company.

There are no plans for a road, Randall said. Bay wanted to vacate the easement to control access to its property for security, the petition said.

A county panel recommended approval of the abandonment with conditions that Bay Ltd. grant easements for utilities and for the city of Billings for water and sewer.

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