Lockwood district to consider smaller residential sewer area

2014-04-11T10:26:00Z 2014-04-12T22:54:17Z Lockwood district to consider smaller residential sewer areaBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Based on residential interest in a scaled-back project, the Lockwood Water and Sewer District will look further into how much it would cost to provide residents with sewer service.

The district board at its Wednesday night meeting reviewed the results of a study it commissioned to survey residents and agreed to get more information on a potential smaller Phase 2 project, said Woody Woods, district manager, on Friday.

Board members are “cautiously optimistic,” Woods said.

The survey indicated interest in a smaller project and in a flat-rate assessment on property to help pay for the service, Woods said.

Based on the study responses, the board directed its engineering firm, Morrison Maierle, Inc., to design a smaller residential service area and develop cost estimates, Woods said.

That information, Woods said, will be forwarded to funding agencies that had awarded the district grants to pay for a larger residential project, which voters defeated last November.

The grants may change if the area is smaller, and reduced grant support could affect costs, Woods said.

For the original $12.6 million Phase 2 proposal, the district secured grants of $2.05 million from the federal government, $750,000 from the state’s Treasure State Endowment Fund and $100,000 from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

The district also had planned to borrow $9.7 million, with $4.19 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $5.5 million from the state’s revolving fund.

Voters rejected the Phase 2 plan by a vote of 316, or 37 percent in favor, and 526 votes, or 62 percent opposed. If approved, residents would have been assessed for the project based on the value of their property. Estimates ranged from $598 a year for a home valued at $100,000 to $948 a year for a home valued at $250,000.

The funding agencies, however, agreed to hold open the grants and loans to give the district a chance to consider its options.

The board hired Barb Beck, of Beck Consulting in Red Lodge, to meet with residents and to report back this month.

Beck held seven neighborhood meetings in March to see if residents would support a scaled-back project and a flat-rate assessment. The meetings drew 58 people representing 45 properties. People also returned 127 comment cards.

Six of the seven neighborhoods supported a smaller Phase 2 while a seventh neighborhood had no clear support for proceeding, the report said.

Based on a Phase 2 boundary that is 75 percent the size of the original area, the estimated flat rate on a single property would be about $33 to $37 a month. The estimate assumes the grants and loans are still available.

“It was just strictly a shot in the dark,” Woods said of the flat-rate estimate.

The district board is hoping to have more information by its May 14 board meeting, Woods said.

Meanwhile, low-income and moderate-income residents in the Phase 1 area may be eligible for grants to pay for hooking up to sewer service. The district has $450,000 from the state’s Community Development Block Grant Program to help qualifying residents. So far, three residents have applied.

Woods encouraged residents in the Phase 1 area to contact the district to apply for the grant. Hookup costs can range from $1,500 to $4,000 per house. The $21 million Phase 1 project brought service to about 400 mostly commercial properties along Old Hardin Road, the North Frontage Road and near the Johnson Lane interchange.

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