Amid the warm glow of smiling family and friends, Billings’ five new council members were sworn into office Monday evening.
They include Roy Neese, who was appointed to the council in late 2018 and ran to keep his seat, and newcomers Kendra Shaw, Danny Choriki, Pam Purinton and Mike Boyett, who were all elected in November.
As new council members, they’ll spend the next month meeting with city department heads and other staff as part of their orientation process. The entire 11-member city council will then come together Feb. 1 for a goal-setting retreat to decide its policy priorities for the year.
One of the biggest issues facing the council in 2020 is public safety and finding a way to pay for increases to the city’s fire and police departments, more staffing for municipal court and the 911 operations center, and the construction of new fire stations.
In order to pay for the increase in public safety funding the council has floated the idea of seeking a mill levy from voters. Deadlines for the council to approve the move and to craft the language for the ballot mean council members would have to take action in the first few months of the year.
Late last year, the council also finished its facilities study process with bids from six different companies to situate city council and city staff in a new city hall. The top bid came from the owners of the newly renovated Stillwater Building, which holds the offices of the council commissioners.
This year, the council will have to decide if it wants to move city hall from its current location and if so how to pay for it. In past discussions, the new city hall has been included as one of the projects in the public safety mill levy.