City discusses potential public safety levy; crime study

City officials are still discussing what to do with the crime task force recommendations and how to use their allocation of federal COVID relief funds.

During their first April meeting, City Commissioner Eric Hinebauch said he wanted to start discussing the possibility of sending a public safety levy to the ballot.

City Manager Greg Doyon said during their April 19 work session that he’d had an initial meeting with Hinebauch to outline some general concepts.

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Doyon said he’s not yet prepared to talk about numbers but commissioners had asked to start a discussion.

“If you’re going to start anywhere with a public safety levy, go to the crime task force list and look at the unfunded recommendations as a starting point,” Doyon siad.

He said he’d asked Great Falls Police Chief and Great Falls Fire Rescue Chief Jeremy Jones, the city attorney’s office and Municipal Court to start considering potential scenarios and needs.

Doyon said it would be good to consider funding scenarios in terms of funding current needs, but better to consider long-term needs.

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If there’s interest in that, Doyon said staff could generate a basic proposal.

The challenging part, Doyon said, is that there are a lot of unfunded items in the crime task force recommendations and a lot of needs that had been expressed by the city’s public safety officials for years, and how to most effectively use the federal COVID relief funds while considering a public safety levy.

Doyon said staff is preparing to send some projects out for bid from the list of recommended projects for federal COVID funds and they’re gathering more information for some to get firmer cost estimates.

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Among the crime task force recommendations is a third party crime study.

Over the summer, the crime task force discussed a crime study conducted by the City of Billings and commissioners have continued talking about it.

There’s been what appears to be confusion over what the study was, as Billings did two separate studies. One was an analysis of the city’s data to determine the cost of high-frequency users in the public safety system that was conducted internally by city staff. The other was a study of the Billings Police Department’s operations that was conducted by a third-party consultant.

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Doyon told commissioners during the April 19 work session, that he’d asked a firm he’s familiar with for a cost estimate and they quoted the cost at $56,500 plus expenses and 135 days to complete once initiated.

Doyon said that if commissioners are interested they can talk more about it, but that the crime task force met and made recommendations, many of which are things he said he’s heard for the last decade.

“I’m not sure having an independent review on top of that is the best use of resources,” Doyon told commissioners.

They didn’t give him an indication of whether they wanted to pursue it during the meeting, but Doyon told The Electric that he expects it will come up at another work session in the near future.