City eyes state funding for major sewer project

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An estimated $1.8 million project to replace aging and failing sewer lines in Polson could begin as soon as this summer if a variety of funding sources are secured.

The Polson City Commission on Feb. 3 voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to accept an addendum to a 2014 preliminary engineering report, which allows city officials to move forward with securing loans and other funding options for the extensive sewer project.

Rickey Schultz with HDR Engineering told the commission that some areas of town have 100-year-old clay pipes that are deteriorating and causing a number of costly backups.

“There are significant issues and needs there that need to be addressed,” he said of the city’s sewer collection system.

Roughly 6,500 linear feet of pipe have been identified for replacement in this phase of the project.

Funding to replace the lines will come from a variety of sources, according to Finance Officer Cindy Dooley.

The city has already been awarded a $125,000 Montana’s Renewable Resource Grant.

Additional funding up to $750,000 could be awarded through the Treasure State Endowment Program. The city was expecting to know more about that program sometime this month.

“We’re in a foot race to get 100 percent of that funding,” Dooley told the commission.

The city also plans to seek State Revolving Loan funding of $800,000 at a rate of 2.5%, according to Dooley. There is a possibility of loan forgiveness of $212,500 at completion of the project for a net loan amount of $587,500.

The remainder of the funding will be provided by the Sewer Fund reserves in the amount of $145,500.

City water users will likely see a rate increase of about $9 a month, which would go into effect later this spring. Dooley said there will be a few months advanced notice before the rate hike is put in place.

Interim City Manager Wade Nash said that work on the failing sewer lines has been put off for too long.

“You have a brand new [wastewater treatment] facility and you have aging infrastructure that hasn’t been dealt with in 100 years,” he said. “It comes down to maintenance. It’s something we have to deal with, otherwise liability is going to be a huge concern moving forward.”

A preliminary design report on the project is expected to be finished by March, with a detailed design ready by summer.

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