Red Lodge, Montana

Tea with the Mayor, Tuesday Feb 4

Tea with the Mayor

The first Tuesday of each month is “Tea with the Mayor” at Red Lodge Books & Tea. Local residents and business owners can stop by between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. and discuss whatever concerns them with Mayor Ed Williams.

The majority of this month’s meeting was spent discussing upcoming highway construction along highways 212 and 78. This project is being done by the state, and they have received qualified bids. We don’t know yet who was chosen, but there will be a public meeting on March 11 to discuss the project. Here’s what we know:

  • Highway 212 will be resurfaced all the way through Red Lodge. Unlike last year, this should only take a couple of days because there’s no work being done under the road.
  • The sidewalk curb cuts at intersections will be brought up to ADA compliance.
  • New sidewalks will be constructed at the north and south ends of town.
  • A roundabout will be built at the 212/78 intersection.
  • Highway 212 will be rebuilt and widened from 78 to Robinson Drive.
  • Highway 78 will be rebuilt with new drainage from 212 to Lazy M Drive.

Police Chief Richard Pringle has agreed to delay his retirement until February 28 to give the City a chance to hire his replacement. Mayor Williams has contracted with a Billings human resources firm to aid in finding a new chief.

Turkeys, turkeys, turkeys! A few years ago, we had 80 wild turkeys in town. Now, there are over 200. They’ve spread beyond just Finn Park, and are roosting all over town. One woman called to report one looking in her window: a “peeping tom,” if you will.

The Montana Department of Environ­mental Quality is studying ground levels near the old Roosevelt school. They have placed some reference monuments nearby to check on significant foundation settling (up to 1½ inches) and cracking.

The Mayor suggested that he’d like to forbid parking on Broadway from 3:00a.m. to 5:00a.m. when it’s snowy, so that they can clear the snow.

One of the Mayor’s priorities is working on the Capitol Improvement Plan. They have $30,000 in grants, and they’ve put in $10,000 matching. They are currently taking bids for developing the plan. The bid process closes on Feb 28 at 5:00 p.m.

Questions were also raised about resort tax, and the Mayor wrote us a letter about how those taxes are used:

At the recent Tea with the Mayor at Red Lodge Books and Tea there were some questions regarding our resort tax and the impact it has on our community.

Resort tax is designed to provide funds to improve our community and to provide some tax relief to our property owners. During the last few years it has generated between $650,000 and $700,000 annually. In the simplest of terms if we did not have the resort tax our water and sewer rates would be at least 30% higher than they are today. Additionally, we would have very limited resources to improve our streets and provide the equipment they needed for plowing, and our parks would be neglected due to lack of funding and the capital equipment our fire and police departments require would need to come from other sources. The property tax relief provide by resort tax (15% of the amount collected: over $100,000 annually) would not be available to our property owners. The impact would be increased property taxes.

In other words, the funding provided by the resort tax collections would need to be replaced by other forms of taxation that would come directly from all of Red Lodge property owners. We are currently beginning the process of developing a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan for the City. Once developed, we will have public meetings to discuss the findings, and prioritizing the needed capital improvements as well as developing a plan how these will be funded. I am confident resort tax will pay a significant role in solving some of the infrastructure issues we will need to address.

While somewhat unrelated, I have found many of the items I purchase in Red Lodge that are resort taxed are less expensive than the same items found in Billings even when you add the small resort tax charged to the purchase. I encourage all of those who live in our area to give our local merchants an opportunity and to do as much shopping locally as possible.

In the next few weeks I will provide a comprehensive overview regarding the specific uses of the resort that is collected by the City of Red Lodge. I plan to have that available at the next the next Tea with the Mayor at Red Lodge Books & Tea on Tuesday March 4th from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM.

If you have any questions please contact me at williams4mayor@gmail.com or 406-425-4908.

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