What is going on at MetraPark?
By Denis Pitman, Yellowstone County Commissioner
The question on many people’s minds, and an important topic for our community. I would like to offer some answers, clarify what is going on, and hopefully put much of this into context.
Within the past five years we have seen significant deterioration of the property and buildings at MetraPark. Things were becoming dangerous, and the possibility of people getting hurt were increasing.
We began by doing an assessment of the property and cost of saving barns and the grandstands. It was determined that cost of just maintenance and stopping the hazards from getting worse were more of a liability than just removing them. That would lead to conversations about what should or could the entire 189 acres look like with this new foot print? What did people want to use the property for within the next several generations?
At the same time, the general manager would indicate that he was going to be retiring.
Then we were hit with a global pandemic that would change everything. While it has been claimed that things were done without transparency, that is not accurate, and in fact things have been delayed and extended to make sure that people were aware of what was being discussed throughout the process. With that, the Board of County Commissioners, the MetraPark Advisory board began a process of examining every aspect of how the property runs, and what the vision for the future might look like.
We have been going out to the community, we have been sharing everything with the public. We have been bringing the policies and procedures current and consistent with Montana law, and we have been exploring many different options and ideas. One aspect of that conversation was what type of management did we want going forward? It has been managed by a governing board, and recently by the Board of County Commissioners.
MetraPark is an enterprise department of Yellowstone County, and so it has a separate mission than departments like Road and Bridge. They have the potential to generate funds, and excel at providing services beyond just what is generated in taxes and fees. What we are doing right now is simply exploring what all the options are, and who can best provide that professional and productive path forward.
Everyone agrees that things must change, and as we move forward. Accountability and productivity as well as return on investment must be part of that discussion as well as legacy groups and their contributions to our community.
All of the members of the board agreed that we must move forward in asking these questions, seeking answers, and keeping the best interests of the property owners, ie, the tax payers as a priority.
That is the commitment we have made, and now, openly and transparently, we are asking a lot of questions, and seeking as much advice as possible. From there, we will make decisions about the future of the entire campus, and then put before the voters a cost of construction if they want to invest in additional development of the property. It is an exciting time for Yellowstone County, and the future of MetraPark. Ask questions, listen to what we are learning, point out concerns, tell us what you like and don’t like, and stay active in the process. Together we will make this project a premier facility that will serve everyone for generations to come.
Yellowstone County Commissioner