Billings Mayor Bill Cole and Yellowstone County commissioner Denis Pitman spoke at the State of the City and County event on early Tuesday morning. The two discussed important issues, including infrastructure developments, public safety solutions, and improvements to the MetraPark, making it more appealing to tourists and community members.
Mayor Bill Cole talked about several economic growths, such as the Public Safety Mill Levy citizens voted for last November. The Mill levy has added roughly 40 full-time equivalents for police, fire, code enforcement officers, and city attorneys. Public safety management has also been recommended.
There are several challenges in public safety, one being the population increase in Billings growing each year. Other challenges include the number of violent crime rates in the city and a complicated justice system with a lack of jail capacity and not enough judges and public defenders in the judicial system. Mayor Cole says the core cause of crimes in Billings has been mental health and substance abuse-related.
The safety mill levy has provided two funding sources of about 400,000 dollar mills and roughly the same number of funding coming from the marijuana tax, which may or may not continue after the June 7 vote. Possible investments from the marijuana tax funds can go towards things like creating a Behavioral Health Unit, where a trained counselor accompanies first responders so police officers can leave the scene and work on other items in the city.
Yellowstone County Commissioner Denis Pitman talks about the growth Billings has seen and what that means for roads, interstate expansion, and quality of life for others in the community. Pitman says the MetraPark location will get a new boulevard as well as a new fence and sidewalks to make it look more inviting for others.
Both Cole and Pitman highlighted the strengths of Billings and the economic developments that will make it even stronger.