BILLINGS - Library Director Bill Cochran told the Billings City Council on Monday that the security guards working at the downtown facility have helped make the library “one of the safest places downtown.”

To date, 47 people have been placed on what Cochran called “criminal trespass status.”

“If people are intoxicated,” he said, “they are not allowed in the library by virtue of our conduct code, which has the force of law inside the library.”

“Absent the guards,” Cochran added, “we’d be calling the police 4, 5, 6 or 7 times per day. The guards deter a lot from happening.”

The discussion came up over a City Council decision to approve $93,500 to pay for the guards, who work for Guardian Security Inc., for the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The City Council unanimously approved the request.

Cochran said the guards were first hired in 1999 at the old Parmly Billings Library, a facility “the community considered dingy and dark,” Cochran said.

The public’s perception of increased safety at the new library, opened in January 2014, is an important reason why so many new families are now visiting and using the library, Cochran said.

“It’s why we were issuing so many new cards every day, mostly to families who wouldn’t come to the old library because they didn’t feel it was safe,” he said. “Today the library and the new parking garden are packed, because it’s both perception and reality that the library is a bright, open and safe place.”

After holding three public hearings Monday, the City Council approved an annexation, a reconfiguration of Ward 3 boundaries and first reading of amendments to the city’s subdivision regulations regarding development of the 100-year floodplain.

The annexation is for 3.5 acres just south of the intersection of Rimrock Road and 46th Street West. Residential development is being considered on the two parcels, according to Wyeth Friday, manager of the city’s Planning Division.

The reconfiguration of ward boundaries was necessitated when the City Council voted to annex the Elysian School property last month.

The proposed amendments to the city’s subdivision regulations will bring local language about floodplains into compliance with state law, which prohibit building in the floodway but not the flood fringe — the outer portions of the floodplain.

“This will allow development in the fringe — providing the applicant goes through the floodplain permitting process,” Friday said.

Asked by Councilman Shaun Brown how the new language helps protect the city against litigation, Planning and Community Development Director Candi Millar answered that homeowners who want to build in a flood fringe must purchase insurance from a national program, and that the city is thus not liable because of that insurance.

Councilman Mike Yakawich cast the lone vote against the planned language changes.

“In my ward, we’re dealing with a lot of drainage issues,” he said. “We may come back and wish we’d done this a different way.”

Councilman Ken Crouch decided not to go forward Monday with an initiative to request an analysis of how construction and operation of the proposed Tongue River Railroad in southeast Montana might affect Billings and area residents.

He said after the meeting that other organizations — including economic development groups and chambers of commerce — had already made similar request of the Surface Transportation Board.

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