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Stevi gets nearly $2 million grant for sewer project

By Michael Howell

The Town of Stevensville has accepted a grant of $1,955,000 from USDA Rural Development for use on Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the town’s Sewer Improvement Project. Phase 1 of the project, which involved extending the sewer main to Selway Corporation, has reached substantial completion and the remaining punch list is being wrapped up. Phase 2 and 3 of the project have to do with meeting state discharge requirements. The roughly $2 million grant is accompanied by an $800,000 loan. The grant to loan ratio is 71% to 29%. According to Mayor Gene Mim Mack, that kind of grant to loan ratio has never been seen before. He said the grant to loan ratio on the nearly completed water system improvement project was 55% to 45%. Mim Mack said that the great thing about the grant money is that there is no payback to be included in the rate structure as there is for loans.

The Town has received two other grants for the sewer project, one from the Treasure State Endowment Program for $750,000 and one from the state RRGL for $100,000. The Town’s share of the total cost is $222,000. Interest on the new $800,000 loan is set at 2.5%, a good deal better than the previous rates of 4.5%, and represents a $750,000 savings.

“We are extremely pleased that RD has recognized the Town’s achievements in improving its financial record keeping and reporting,” said Mim Mack. “This grant is an enormous benefit to the Town’s residents.”

After years of untimely and incomplete audits, the Town’s latest draft audit for 2012-2013 has been made available within the time limits and comes with no “findings,” which is a good sign, and no fines for being late.

The Council postponed until June 12 a discussion and possible adoption of the Airport Affected Area (AAA). Although the Town had not yet received it, the County Commissioners have drafted a letter asking the Town to consider establishing a Joint AAA Board including members of the County Commission on that advisory board. They did so in response to a request from several property owners in the area who are county residents affected by the proposed AAA. They believe they are being affected by regulations without any representation on the Town Council since they are county residents.

The Council adopted an ordinance establishing fees as part of the codification process. No fees were changed from the amounts adopted in 2009. Councilor Ron Klaphake called it a “housekeeping” chore to place the fees properly in the Municipal Code. The ordinance becomes effective 30 days after adoption.

The Council adopted a resolution establishing Flood Plain Administrative Fees: $150 for a Floodplain Permit; $450 for a Floodplain Variance; and $450 for a Floodplain Appeal.

The cost of seasonal passes at the Town’s swimming pool were also hiked, but the regular day use fees of $3 for youth and $5 for adults was not changed. The new fees for seasonal passes are $65 for an individual season pass; $135 for a family pass; $175 for a group pass of 6 to 14 people; and $225 for a group pass for 15 to 30 people. The Council also approved a request from the school district for 206 student day passes and a request for a fee reduction from Ravalli County Head Start for 20 families at a cost of about $20 per child.

The Council accepted a bid of $2,750 from LiquiVision Technology for water reservoir cleaning.

The Council approved an increase in the base medical benefits of its 10 qualifying employees. This will increase the overall cost to the Town for those benefits to about $5,990. The cost per employee is increasing from $461.25 to $468.63 per month for the basic package.

The Council, in a separate motion, also agreed to pay 50% of the cost of a dental and vision plan for the same employees. The total cost per employee of the dental/vision package is $45.70 per month. The Town’s share would be half that cost or $22.85. Consideration of a permissive levy to pay those increased costs was tabled until the Council could review the budget and see if the amount of the Town’s share, estimated at a total of about $1,400, could be found in the General Fund budget instead.

Mayor Mim Mack asked the council to approve his appointment of Ron Klaphake to fill the City Judge position following the end of the current judge’s term. Councilors Robin Holcomb and Jim Crews asked to delay the confirmation until they could examine the applications of the six people who were interviewed by the mayor’s committee, which was comprised of himself, councilor Bill Perrin and Court Clerk Stacy Bartlett. Crews and Holcomb said that they had heard from constituents that worried about a potential conflict of interest due to the makeup of the committee.

“I’m not saying that there is a conflict of interest,” said Crews. “I just want to be sure there isn’t.” He said a council member being interviewed by the mayor, a council member and a clerk “doesn’t look right.”

Holcomb agreed that she would like to look into it and would like to see the resumes of all the candidates interviewed before confirming Klaphake. The confirmation was tabled until June 12.

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