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The City of Billings is eradicating “nuisance properties”



Billings, Montana – The City of Billings is taking strict action against what it refers to as “nuisance properties.” Chris Kukulski, the city administrator, defined nuisance properties as those with frequent code violations, such as piled-up rubbish, abandoned automobiles, boarded-up windows, etc.

“So, you have several code violations typically,” Administrator Kukulski said. “Maybe abandoned vehicles, trash piling up, boarded up windows. Things that are clearly deteriorating, not only the property itself, but also tend to be attractions for crime and degradation of property values in the neighborhood.”

In 2022, according to Kukulski, the city received 11 abatements—court orders to clean up property—which is more than he can ever recall the city receiving in a single year. According to him, the City of Billings was able to strengthen code enforcement thanks to funds from the Public Safety Mill Levy.

“In some of those case, the property owners were able to take care of things,” he continued. “On the other extreme, if it’s determined that you’re not being cooperative or don’t have the capacity to get the job done, then we end up doing the cleanup. And then, it’s charged against the property because the taxpayers are paying for it, to get the taxpayer reimbursed.”

He stated that neighbors’ concerns regarding nearby houses are something they commonly hear from.

“We’ve got some regular attenders the last several months who are really frustrated with neighboring properties,” he said. “So, literally, each Monday, the Council and I are hearing from some members in the community who are frustrated at how slow the process has been. Primarily, the complainers who’ve been coming to Council have been frustrated over what they see is selling of drugs, drug use, things like that. In that case, you’ve got a whole judicial system where one of those properties, several arrests have been made. The process to get a person through. The cleanup of the property only took about sixty days. The activity, going through the criminal justice system, takes longer than that.”

Manager of the Code Enforcement Division Tina Hoeger stated they are constantly busy. She frequently hears about nearby houses from locals as well.

“We are still very complaint driven. In fact, this morning, I received, I think, 25 emails before 7 a.m. regarding some issues in a neighborhood,” she said.

In 2023, she anticipates having three more code enforcement officers, which will lead to roughly three times as many abatements as in 2022. They now have five residential officers, a building officer for commercial properties, and a property officer for nuisances.

“I think that we’re going to see a huge impact in 2023,” she said.

The current focus includes graffiti.

“Graffiti is a public nuisance,” Hoeger said. “It’s terrible around town. It’s something that I see everywhere and I really wish it would stop. And we are putting some additional effort into that.”

Cleaning up blighted properties, according to Division Manager Hoeger, is about more than just neighborhood property values.

“Cause if you start to collect junk and trash and garbage and tires and cars, it’s not just an eyesore. It doesn’t just affect other property values. It’s an attraction for crime, as we talked about. It’s also an attraction for vermin and rodents and bugs and that’s not healthy.”


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