Intake costs rising

Looking for some help from Helena
Outlook managing editor

Although Montana’s legislature won’t convene until January, after failing to pass state-wide infrastructure spending bills the past two sessions, battle lines are being drawn over what constitutes infrastructure and where the money will come from to cover the many needs in long neglected communities.
Although Laurel has plenty of projects that fall under the generally established purview, members of the city council, Montana Representatives Vince Ricci (HD 55) and Kelly McCarthy (HD 51) are working to keep the package needed to pay for Laurel’s intake separate from other state-wide infrastructure bills that may be introduced.
Both representatives concur with Councilman Tom Nelson: Laurel’s new intake is not infrastructure and funding towards the project now underway shouldn’t be earmarked as such. They also agree that the city of Laurel shouldn’t have to take out a loan from the state’s revolving loan fund—low interest or not—to pay what should be the state’s 25 percent share of the FEMA designated disaster repair on the intake. FEMA is covering the other 75 percent of the cost.
“It isn’t infrastructure because the 2011 flooding which caused the need for replacing it upstream was declared a disaster,” Nelson said, and he should know. The councilman has spent hours researching the law and how states work with FEMA after disasters. He made a special trip to Helena with Ricci and McCarthy to discuss the matter with aides to the governor.
“As far as the state is concerned, the disaster is on-going,” Nelson said. “Montana is still using the FEMA designation for other projects. The state has paid the 25 percent match as they are required to for all other FEMA 1996-DR-MT approved worksheets from the flooding event.”

At the council level
Laurel City Council members were charged at Tuesday’s workshop meeting with reviewing several resolutions for change orders to the current construction plans for the intake project, and they weren’t happy about it.
The council reviewed change orders 6,7, and 8 with Wilson Brothers Construction at the meeting during a lengthy discussion. The first order will extend the use of the temporary weir at cost of $9,000.
Order 7, covers the boiler system which is designed to eliminate the problems caused by frazzle ice at the new intake. It won’t be able to draw water needed to run the system from the well as engineers had originally planned. The driller ran into a problem with shale under the property.
“The driller was surprised as anyone,” Public Works Director Kurt Markegard said when asked by Councilman Rick Herr about drilling test wells. Markegard said that the land wasn’t accessible during planning. The city did run into problems getting necessary easements.
The newest proposal involves a holding tank rather than the well. Because of those changes and changes in materials outlined in change order 8, the city is stuck with bills for restocking and shipping materials back to the manufacturers.
Several council members and the city’s new clerk expressed doubt that the city is solely responsible for those costs. Most of the council members questioned the need for the changes and the attendant costs.
Some of the design changes are for the piping to the control tower, control tower communication systems and to the footings on the control tower. Many of the items will not be covered by FEMA funds because those were not part of the original system damaged during the flood.
Overall, the changes will cost the city about $131,000, with some funds coming from the SED basin reserves.
The council will vote on the resolutions at the Tuesday, Dec. 6, meeting at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers.
Next week: Montana Infrastructure Coalition


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