Residents gave a green light indication to county commissioners last week in a public meeting held June 11, 2013 at Lockwood school for sidewalks, pathways & lighting. The proposed SID (Special Improvement District) option was put to the public present with real-time results for county commissioners to evaluate on the spot. Over 30+ people used keypad clickers to vote on a series of questions regarding their interest in whether a said district should even be created. 52% of those voting approved of the measure put forth by county commissioners for pathways and sidewalks while 25% supported pathways only. About 20% of those present opposed the creation of a district completely.
Two proposed district boundaries were presented which the county put forth. The two districts that were presented were the Lockwood School District boundaries or the Lockwood Fire District boundaries. When asked why existing boundaries were used, Commissioner Reno responded of the surety of knowing better numbers and information as those districts and numbers are already known. Resident Conrad Stroebe asked why it had to be those two districts and could it be the transportation district as an option? The answer was that it could be any existing district or any new proposed district. However, over 70% of those voting preferred the school district boundaries which included the Exxonmobil Refinery.
When asked about those who can vote within the proposed district, Deputy County Attorney Dan Swartz noted that those who are residents of the proposed district would be able to vote. This includes those who have property in Lockwood but don’t necessarily live in Lockwood. For example if someone owns property in Lockwood but lives in Billings, they would be given the option to vote on the said district as their taxable value on the property would be accessed and taxed to help pay for the district.
Candi Beaudry, who is the Director of the City-County Planning Department, said that 10 mills would cost a homeowner of a property value of $100,000 about $12.90 a year. She also mentioned that commercial properties would be a little more. As for how much those present would be willing to pay? It was a mixed bag with 32% that would support a levy of up to 10 mills while 29% said that they would be willing to support a mill levy up to 20 mills and 18% said they would support up to 30 mills. However, 21% percent of those present and voting said that they oppose any mill levy at all.
County Commissioner John Oslund, Bill Kennedy and Jim Reno listened to resident’s questions and concerns for the proposed district. When asked about the priority of improvements and location; residents chose the General area of Old Hardin Road and then other streets like Beacraft and Piccolo Lane coming in as secondary priority locations. When asked about a time frame to vote and cost; Yellowstone County Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford said that a special election would cost about $1/person compared to combining the cost with a general election. Residents chose the general election of 2014 compared to a special vote election as it would cost more money to produce and conduct a special election.
It was said that if the SID district Is created, it will be Lockwood residents who help organize, design and plan the pathways, sidewalks and lights within the Lockwood area. The proposed district will run as does other operating districts within Lockwood like the Fire, Water & Sewer, Irrigation and school district.