The Gazette reports that the Billings City Council on Monday approved nearly $2 million in tax increment finance assistance to help renovate three downtown buildings.  In a series of 8-1 votes in favor of the proposals, Councilman Chris Friedel voted no on each of the three votes.  Joining Mayor Tom Hanel to approve the requests were council members Brent Cromley, Mike Yakawich, Larry Brewster, Angela Cimmino, Rich McFadden, Ryan Sullivan and Dick Clark.  Council members Al Swanson and Shaun Brown were not present at the meeting.

Friedel called the building owners’ efforts to save old structures commendable, but said most of the improvements the TIF money supports aren’t for public use, and investing in the Stillwater Building, which the county is considering for leasing or owning space, he said [quote] “we are helping out the county with their problems.”[end quote]