Livingston Enterprise: City expresses support for clean energy legislation

by Johnathan Hettinger, Enterprise Staff Writer

January 29, 2019

The city of Livingston expressed its support for a state bill that would help commercial properties transition to clean energy.

The Commercial Property-Assessed Clean Energy Act would allow commercial property owners to get 100 percent upfront financing to do things like upgrade HVAC systems, LED lighting, solar installations and upgrade insulation. The owners would then pay those upgrades back over 20 years through their property taxes.

Barb Oldershaw, of Yellowstone Bend Citizens Council, presented the proposed bill to the Livingston city Commission on Tuesday night. The commission voted 5-0 to sign a letter of support. Oldershaw said this allows business owners to make significant upgrades that would lead to savings on energy bills but not have the upfront costs.

“If they’re paying less for energy, they have increased profits they can put back into the community,” Oldershaw said.

She said that Livingston, with its historic buildings, has many properties that could be upgraded.

“The town has a number of historic buildings that, beautiful as they are, are not known for their energy efficiency,” she said.

Commissioner Melissa Nootz said Livingston has a solar program for residential properties and an energy intern looking at the city and county buildings, and this program would provide business owners with an opportunity to become more energy efficient.

“I don’t know if the commission is ready to talk about this or not, but the Planning Board is ready to talk about it, and they made it clear they’d like some closure on parkland dedication,” Nootz said.

Last week, the Planning Board voted 4-0 to ask the commission to look at two recommendations fixing parkland dedication amendments and implementing restrictions on large-format retailers.

City Manager Michael Kardoes explained that city staff needs to take time to review each of the recommendations because they aren’t sure if the parkland dedication change is consistent state law and staff need to do more research on large-format retailers. Kardoes said that would likely take a couple months.

Nootz suggested that they discuss the items in a month as a compromise to give city staff some time and show the Planning Board they are taking action on the items.

Urban renewal Agency Update

The City Commission ordered the Urban Renewal Agency Committee to update its bylaws to increase transparency.

The URA, a tax increment financing district, was extended last year, and with the extension, the city is changing the way the district budgets.

In the past, the URA didn’t have a set annual budget, instead looking at projects individually without an annual cap set ahead of time. Now, the city will collect the tax money for the district, then decide what projects to fund with a set budget.

“After collection, it’s very straightforward. We’ll know exactly what’s there,” Kardoes said.

Now, the grants will be a “little more ironclad,” Kardoes said.

Commissioner Quentin Schwarz said it will improve the board’s processes.

“This will make it a lot cleaner and clearer,” he said.

Enforcement Officer

The city of Livingston will likely be out of a code enforcement officer for a few months. The Livingston Police Department has two openings, and until those spots are filled, the department will not have a full-time code enforcement officer.

“Being down two officers we can’t pull someone off to be a full-time code enforcement officer,” Kardoes said.

With a full-time officer, the city had a sharp increase in the number of parking tickets given out downtown, as well as abandoned vehicles. That enforcement will now only continue when city officers have time.

“We are still enforcing the code, but we just don’t have a full-time officer right now,” Kardoes said.