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Yellowstone County commissioner says MetraPark privatization not decided

Posted at 10:36 PM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-05 11:48:41-05

Talk about a private company coming in to manage MetraPark has brought questions about what this means for employees, vendors and those using it, and that has already been decided.

One of the Yellowstone County commissioners discussed some of those issues on Friday.

On Thursday, Ray Massie, director of marketing and sales, announced his departure, citing concerns about potential privatization of the facility.

Ray Massie 3-4.jpg
KTVQ photo

"Privatization is absolutely going to happen," Massie said.

But Yellowstone County Commissioner Denis Pitman said Friday that's news to him.

Denis Pitman 3-4.jpg
KTVQ photo

"That was kind of a surprise to me," Pitman said. "I know everybody thinks it is. What we've tried to tell people, we're just trying to seek out the answers."

Massie said a private company could drive up the costs for the vendors who use the Metra.

Pitman said that could happen, but it’s about breaking it down to the actual cost.

"What are the costs that are actually incurred?" Pitman asked. "So that we can make sure we're charging appropriately, that we're not low balling the market, but we're not going so high that nobody can afford to do business here."

And a change in management could mean a change in admission prices to attend concerts and other events.

"A lot of what the prices are here at MetraPark are driven by the vendors," Pitman said.

The commissioner says with Massie’s resignation and the retirement of general manager Bill Dutcher at the end of 2021, MetraPark is down two employees.

"With Ray resigning, probably we're going to have to lean more on our contract with with Oak View that we already have in place as far as securing additional concerts and events here at the arena," Pitman said.

Both say privatization would mean MetraPark's 38 full-time employees would be laid off and would have to reapply for their jobs.

"They're telling us 90% will be here," Massie said. "That means four more people that are going to go out the door."

"Our goal has always been to protect and watch out for our staff and to protect the taxpayers of Yellowstone County," Pitman said.

"There's not been a whole lot of transparency and clarity," said Massie.

"Foregone conclusion?" said Pitman. "Absolutely not. If that were true, we'd have done this six months ago. It'd already be done. We're doing our due diligence. We're looking at all of our options."