City approves tax abatement, Civic Center contract, TIF funding, fire engine donation and more

A $305,620 tax abatement, lease of airport property, a $494,060 contract and $25,000 in tax increment financing funds were among the items approved during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting with little to no public comment or opposition.

City staff said that while the needs of the city are many and resources are few, it’s still important to encourage and support economic development.

Commissioners agreed and said that some of the past abatement requests that they’ve denied were for much larger sums and the projects put considerable strain on public safety and other city services.

That wasn’t the case for the Montana Egg LLC project, Commissioner Bob Jones said.

Montana Egg LLC seeking city tax abatement

The approved tax abatement totals $305,620 over the next 10 years and reduces taxes paid to the city on the improvements to the property. It does not affect city, county or state taxes and at the end of 10 years, the company will pay the full tax amount.

Commissioner Bill Bronson said that this request came at the beginning stages of a development, though the $7 million facility on 38th Street North near the River Drive intersection recently opened.

“This wasn’t something that was dropped on us at the 11th hour,” he said.

Commissioners approved the abatement request 5-0. No one spoke in opposition to the abatement request during the public hearing.

Commissioners approved a 30-year lease for the facility that currently houses the 911 dispatch center in a 5-0 vote. The facility was built by the city in the 1980s for an Automated Flight Services Station but the jobs promised by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration never materialized and the center sat vacant for many years.

Commission to consider lease with GF airport to maintain 911 center operations

Believing it owned the facility outright, the city moved the 911 dispatch center that it operates with Cascade County to the property. Last year, it was discovered that the airport owned the property and the city would have to pay present day market value to purchase the property if the FAA was willing to release it.

The $494,060 professional services agreement was also approved with a 5-0 vote for architectural and engineering design services for repairs to the facade of the Civic Center.

Commission to consider engineering agreement for Civic Center repairs

Commissioner Fred Burow asked if the contract included actual construction.

City Manager Greg Doyon said the city has been working on this project for years and these are the initial steps to get construction documents and better cost estimates.

“We do need to make an ask to the public to fix the front of the building,” Doyon said.

Planning Director Craig Raymond said that though the commission was approving the entire contract, it was broken into two phases and carefully worded in case the city isn’t ready to proceed with the second phase right away.

The first phase will cost no more than $358,642 and the second will cost no more than $135,418.

“We really will have a much better idea of how much this will cost when we get this work done,” Raymond said.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to donate a decommissioned Great Falls Fire Rescue engine to the Neihart Volunteer Fire Department.

Final decision on fire engine donation to Neihart set for Tuesday

Commissioners also approved the use of $25,000 in tax increment financing funds to match a state grant toward a wayfinding strategic plan to determine the best placement of signs and their design for the downtown. The city is applying for a $25,000 grant from the Big Sky Trust Fund for the project.

Wayfinding project planned for downtown in effort to improve economic development, connectivity and tourism

Commissioners tabled discussion on the changes to Title 2 of the city code dealing with administrative and personnel provisions to Oct. 17. Recommended changes from city staff include the creation of a city board of ethics, additional training for city board and commission members among other changes. Due to additional recommended changes, commissioners wanted to give the public more time to digest the proposed code revision.