Sidney City Council celebrated a local victory last week with the signing of House Bill 656 by Gov. Bullock on Thursday. Mayor Rick Norby and Rep. Joel Krautter (R-Sidney) attended the event.
“I hate to say it, but this is my first major accomplishment in the Legislature,” Norby said at the council meeting Monday evening.
The bill redirects funds back to oil field communities and is similar to the bill that went out of commission a couple sessions ago. The funds, which come from leasing and permitting of oil wells, will be nondiscretionary. At the height of the boom, that money amounted to upwards of $2 million; in slower times, it hovered around $300,000. Projected estimates for Sidney have not been calculated.
“This is the best session, learning-wise, that I’ve had,” Norby said.
As utility rates slowly increase for citizens over the next five years, Norby hopes the extra funding will help the city budget in other ways. Previous funds from oil revenue have been used for police department equipment that didn’t qualify for grant funding, fire department and EMS vehicles and the city’s parks and recreation department. No specific projects have been named for the expected revenue, which will likely take one to two fiscal years to generate.
With House Bill 656 comes a change in attitude about how oil communities are treated by the state. Norby said the new leadership in eastern Montana has more clarity of the needs of the entire state, not just their own communities.
“The whole state of Montana needs infrastructure, not just eastern Montana,” he said. “Once [the Legislature] realized leadership in eastern Montana has changed, they realized we’re all ok with that. We understand that.”
Norby added there was a time when 10 percent of the general fund was coming from oil field communities and that has not gone unnoticed by politicians on both sides of the aisle in Helena.
“My position is nonpartisan,” he said. “It’s the only way we’re ever going to get anything accomplished in Helena is to come to a level head and work things out. To me, that’s what’s happening right now.”
Mayor Norby also gave credit to Kelly Lynch, Tim Burton, Joel Krautter, Shane Gorder and Chris Dschaak, all of whom were instrumental in moving the bill forward.
City council agreed to divert $4,000 that would have gone to Richland County Baseball association to Moose Park maintenance this year at Monday night’s meeting. American Legion and Babe Ruth leagues will not be active this summer due to low participation numbers.
“There were some pretty big shifts in the baseball program this year,” councilmember Kysa Rasmussen said. “They’d still like to utilize the park and maintain it to ensure it’s there whenever they need it.”
The agreement was reached with the baseball association at a parks and recreation committee meeting last month.
In other business:
Sidney Clean Up is scheduled for Friday, May 17. Trash receptacles will be positioned in front of the garage doors at city hall, with trash bags and gloves available until 2 p.m.
Richland County Sportsmen Club received permission to use Moose Park for a car show Saturday, July 13.
City council approved the hire of two new police officers, Brent Norby and Max Fletcher.
Jeff Hintz, public works director, reported pool maintenance has started early this year. He is hoping the pool will be open the Monday after Memorial Day weekend.
An air compressor had to be replaced, Hintz reported, which was not budgeted for this year. The total cost of $21,600 will be taken from parks and recreation, sewer, water and street departments.
Storm drainage has been an issue for several spots around town for snow runoff and summer storms. Hintz will be attending a FEMA class in June in Butte to be able to request grant dollars from Montana Disaster and Emergency Services. He is hoping the money can be used for improvements. Hintz requested city council to think about starting a storm sewer district.