Gulp! Town of 150 with $1.6 million water repair bill gets help from county, state

2014-03-26T08:45:00Z 2014-03-27T09:12:15Z Gulp! Town of 150 with $1.6 million water repair bill gets help from county, stateBy TOM LUTEY tlutey@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

At $10,666 per person, the repair bill for tiny Plevna’s water system was more than the town of 150 could swallow.

The southeast Montana community draws its water from an underground cistern, which cracked near the top several years ago. Plevna made do by keeping the water level below the cistern’s crack, which meant Plevna’s cup was pretty much half full.

“We always figured it leaked water if we filled it about two-thirds full,” said Mayor Willie Benner.

“It’s always been that way since I’ve been here, which is decades. We got by except what happened in summertime when people started watering their lawns.”

The town’s ability to adequately fight fire had become an issue.

But lately, Plevna’s funding tap has turned on. Fallon County gave the community $1 million for the first phase of the project and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation added $100,000.

On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Bullock announced a $500,000 grant for Plevna from the state Treasure State Endowment Fund. TSEP gets its money from coal severance taxes. TSEP funds community infrastructure projects total $33.9 million for the biennium, which began July 1, 2013.

Benner said the town plans to start construction on a new water tower early this summer, with some new water lines, as well. The first phase of the project will cost $1.6 million with more work to come.

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