Billings’ special meeting of council (January 6), the second meeting to review and select tender applications for renovations to the Old Mill, was the worst example of municipal governance I have ever seen. I was the first delegation at this meeting and not one member of council addressed any of my concerns. After the second delegation by Mayor Anderson, entitled “Council Presentation to Public,” this council that prides itself in communication permitted only one question. Over 30 people attended this special meeting because they care about our community. Citizens deserve a chance to speak out and should be given the common courtesy of being heard. Clearly a forum for public input and discussion around this issue should have been offered. I voted in a democratic election and I expect democracy in Billings. All I’m seeing is an autocratic management style.
This council also prides itself in being fiscally responsible. From what I witnessed, nothing could be further from the truth. At the first special meeting on December 20 there were two bids: the first at $179,850 and the second at $189,999. Council’s decision was deferred until the engineer for the project could speak with both companies to further explain the scope of the project and see if the bids couldn’t come closer to the engineer’s estimate of $120,000.
When the amounts were put forward again at (the January 6) meeting, our mayor quoted the first bid the same at $179,850, with the second one being lowered by $6,000, now at $183,999. Council discussed the two bids, again stating that the two options were very similar in work, using almost the same sub-contractors, and with less than a $4,000 difference, why not go with a Billings contractor. But the second bid amount had been erroneously stated, and was actually still at $189,999. So now more than $10,000 difference between the two bids, for the same work. Again, council voted and the unanimous decision was to award the contract to the highest bid, because it was local. While supporting local business is very important, at what cost to taxpayers?
Given the fact that moments before our mayor had cited a one percent increase in Billings taxes would yield only $18,000, the $10,000 difference should have made the choice clear if you’re truly fiscally responsible. In my option, council’s definition of communication and fiscal responsibility is flawed.