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On Friday, the Yellowstone County elections office will mail ballots to registered voters in four of Billings' five City Council wards. The ballots must be voted and returned to the elections office no later than Sept. 10 to be counted.

This is a primary election because of the large number of candidates who filed for these important community offices. The Sept. 10 primary will winnow the field to two candidates in each ward who will proceed to the Nov. 5 General Election. Ward 3 has only two candidates, so both will be on the General Election ballot and no primary will be held for that ward.

All other wards have three or more candidates in the primary. As part of The Gazette's effort to inform voters about their City Council choices, we invited each candidate in all five wards to participate in a survey that included the four questions below. Each candidate was asked to limit answers to 600 words in total.

Today's opinion page presents the responses from Ward 2 candidates incumbent Roy Neese, who was appointed to Larry Brewster's unexpired term; Roger Gravgaard, who ran for this council seat two years ago, and newcomers Randy Heinz and Michael Richardson.

Responses from candidates in Ward 1 were printed Monday and posted online. Response from other wards will be printed later this week and also posted at billingsgazette.com.

Here are the questions The Gazette posed to each candidate:

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1. What is the most important issue for residents of your city ward and what will you do to address it if elected?

2. The city’s annual budget is being balanced by using reserve funds for a portion of police and fire department costs, but this funding is unsustainable after next year. What should the City Council do to ensure adequate public safety services for Billings’ future?

3. What are your priorities for Billings’ city parks, trails and public lands? How will you work for those priorities on the council?

4. What role should city government play in promoting economic development?

Here are two opportunities for the public to meet City Council candidates in person:

  • From 6:30 to 8:30 tonight, the Heights Business Association and Heights Neighborhood Task Force will hold a forum with Ward 1 and Ward 2 candidates at the Billings Adult Resource Alliance, 935 Lake Elmo Road.
  • On Friday, Forward Montana will host a meet and greet for all Billings City Council candidates from 5 to 8 p.m. on at Thirsty Street Brewing Co., 3008 First Ave. N.

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