Mayor updates community on issues, welcomes discussion

Photo by Lizzie Blumenthal Red Lodge Mayor Ed Williams discusses town issues with the community

 Since Mayor Ed Williams has taken office, he has made it a point to continue to provide the community with updates on the various improvement projects and plans for Red Lodge. At the monthly “Coffee with the Mayor” at Honey’s Cafe, March 20, which occurs every third Thursday from 9 a.m.to 11 a.m., Williams addressed issues including: Capital Improvement and Growth Policy Plans, Police Chief recruitment, potholes in Red Lodge, Highway 212 business, consolidation of the fire department, and other topics the community inquired for discussion. Creating a comprehensive, living document that details various improvement projects within the city is something Williams and the City Council are currently working toward completing. Williams reports they have five companies applying to write the Capital Improvement Plan, who will help outline and analyze a list of capital improvements in Red Lodge. The assessors will provide cost estimates, establish times and help determine how to fund prioritized projects. Once completed and reviewed by the council, Williams will take the document to the public for community feedback and the approved plan will be amended in the Growth Policy.

“There’s a lot of deferred maintenance in Red Lodge. Let’s do it right and create a document we can use, not just something to just put on a bookcase,” said Williams, who explained that the Parks Board has also been working on a comprehensive park plan for all city parks to be included in the Growth Policy. It’s no secret that the words “Red Lodge” and “community” are almost synonymous, so to hire a community-oriented Police Chief is top priority. At this point, there are 25 applicants and Williams hopes to have a total of 40 by closing date of April 5. Once reviewed, they will narrow down the pool to 12 to 15 and eventually interview two to three. The public will also get a chance to meet the potential candidates and help with the decision process. With warmer temperatures causing snow melt on the roads, potholes are now a cause for concern. In the past, the city used an expensive cold mix to fill and refill the holes. But, over time those potholes likely returned. To permanently fix the potholes, Williams introduced the Dura Patcher-- a machine starting April 1 that will fill the holes with a hot mix. “The potholes will continue, but it won’t be the same pothole,” Williams joked. Of course, Highway 212 project entered the discussion, but this year Red Lodge will be more prepared. On March 25 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the public was invited to partake in a question and answer session with construction representatives at City Hall, followed by a 7 p.m. presentation.

The meeting detailed the specific road closures, detours and provided a timeline for the overall project, which is projected to start April 1. After the construction presentation, the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce discussed their media campaign aimed to keep tourism in Red Lodge. According to some community members, during last year’s road construction, the Billings and Cody Chamber of Commerce had informed visitors that Red Lodge was “closed,” which had a negative impact on businesses during the summer months. To address this and other issues, the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce has developed a full-blown media campaign. Chamber member, Danielle Moore said they are scheduling interviews with local T.V. stations and working on providing sufficient signage (See Chamber article for additional details). What would “Coffee with the Mayor” be without turkey talk?

Although Williams does not want to completely get rid of all the turkeys, he and other community members agree that there are just too many turkeys in town. After writing to the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director, Williams is waiting to hear back on whether they have the authority to transport some of the turkeys to private ranches. Other topics discussed included: consolidation of the Fire Department; fire and police cross-training; the Airport Road project (the city will use the milling from the Highway 212 project); the city website, www.cityofredlodge.net, which is up and running, but not 100 percent populated; Ordinance 905 that addresses funds for cemetery repairs; Hell’s Angels potentially coming to town for the Beartooth Rally (the Mayor will keep an eye on this issue); and the April 3 focus group, which will discuss snow-plowing procedures (those interested in attending, please contact the Williams). The next informal gathering with the Mayor is March 27, 5:00 p.m. at the Elks Lodge.