At its October 28 meeting, the Stevensville Town Council decided to approve revisions to the Preliminary Engineering Report on the Town’s water system and to apply for an American Rescue Plan Act grant to fund improvements to the system.
Craig Caprara, of HDR Engineering, presented a revised Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) on proposed water system improvements. The PER was first presented to the town council in June. At that time, a grant application to fund the improvements was submitted through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) but was not successful.
Caprara told the council that the state awarded $125 million in Round #1 competitive grant money, but most water system projects did not get funded. “If you didn’t have serious health and safety problems, you did not get ranked,” said Caprara. “The good news is that Stevensville doesn’t have issues like that.” The Stevensville application ranked 83. The top 75 in ranking were funded.
Now Round #2 of the competitive grants, another $125 million, is open for applications through January 14 and the Town could reapply, said Caprara.
Caprara said that after presenting the first draft of the PER in June, the Town received a lot of public comment. He said people wanted more emphasis on resolving the significant leaks in the Town’s water system.
The PER update changes the emphasis somewhat and addresses leakage evaluation, leak reduction prioritization, and water storage.
“We went back and further analyzed the leakage in the system and developed a prioritized list of projects to address that,” said Caprara. “We took leak history, leak studies, pipe age and pipe size, and developed a ‘heat map’ to identify where the real issues in the system are.”
He said they then developed priorities 1, 2 and 3 for where they think the work should be focused, working with the potential grant funding. Priority 1 was in the Pine and Mission Street area; Priority 2 was College and Buck, and Priority 3 was Main Street and 2nd and 4th Streets.
Caprara said that previously a new water storage tank had been recommended. The existing tank on Middle Burnt Fork is old and appears to have a significant amount of leakage, he said.
“What we’re looking at doing is a condition assessment on the existing tank… and looking at how to repair it to stop leakage and extend its useful life. We’re recommending that the town do that.”
However, said Caprara, even if the existing tank is rehabilitated, more storage is still needed to meet fire protection requirements.
The revised PER uses $300,000 as the estimate for rehabilitating the existing tank, but “that could vary widely,” said Caprara, depending on what the assessment finds. In the first PER, a completely new tank and mothballing of the existing tank was estimated at $1.5 million. By refurbishing the 400,000-gallon existing tank and building a smaller 600,000-gallon new tank somewhere, the cost estimate has dropped to $900,000.
Caprara noted that if the Town should choose to apply for an ARPA grant, one of the grant program submission criteria is having a PER approved by the town council and submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which Caprara said he would like to have by the end of November.
The council voted unanimously to approve the revised PER.
Caprara then addressed the issue of submitting a new grant application. He said that ARPA funding consisted of three pots of money. The
Town has already been awarded $529,000 in Treasury funds. The council decided to use half of that money for other purposes. The Town also received a Minimum Allocation Grant of $328,000 with a 1 to 1 match. The third program is for infrastructure grants. Round 2 of this competitive grant program is now underway, with a maximum grant amount of $2 million and a 1 to 1 match requirement.
“We’re updating the PER to better align ourselves with the program and be more competitive,” said Caprara. “We need to make the conservation aspect more important. Repairing leaks and reducing the amount of lost water needs to be emphasized.”
Caprara outlined a possible scenario in which the Town would apply for an $840,000 grant, matching it with $265,000 from the Treasury money, $328,000 from the Minimum Allocation Grant, and $250,000 from the Town’s water reserves. The resulting total, just under $1.7 million, could fund Phase 1 of the water system improvements, including the repairs and improvements on Pine and Mission Streets, an upgrade to the water and sewer computer system, and rehabilitation of the existing water storage tank. Caprara said that if the tank was found to be beyond repair and had to be rebuilt in place, that could be considered in the grant criteria. But a new tank at a new location does not fit the grant criteria. However, he said, under the scenario he outlined, the Town would still have $1.4 million left in water reserves to build a new tank.
The Council unanimously approved applying for an ARPA grant for the recommended Phase 1 improvements.
In other business:
• The council unanimously approved an amendment on the use of a $10,000 grant from the Montana Main Street program. The town was awarded the grant about two years ago just before the pandemic hit. The grant was originally meant to be used to research the possibility of a sustainable Main Street program following the closure of the Stevensville Main Street Association. The mayor said the state is amenable to the Town instead using the $10,000 to hire a consultant to facilitate the upcoming growth policy update.
• The Council unanimously approved the selection of broker Kim Lendman with Exit Realty Bitterroot Valley to handle the sale of the Willoughby Road property where the Town’s old gravel pit is located.