By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The grass will be greener in Rudyard this fall, thanks to a new state-of-the-art sprinkler system in the town's community park.
Construction on the system for the 160,000-square-foot park will begin Thursday, Craig Erickson of Bear Paw Development Corp. said. The project is expected to be complete later this month.
Erickson administers Hill County's Community Transportation Enhancement Program grant applications. CTEP is a federal program that funds surface transportation improvement and community beautification projects throughout the country.
CTEP grant money is raised through federal gas taxes and is distributed by the Montana Department of Transportation. The grants require a 13.42 percent local match.
Rudyard Schools and the Rudyard Commercial Club have provided the local match for the park project. The Commercial Club was founded by Rudyard business owners and consists of "community-oriented people," said Rudyard resident Lynn Jurenka.
Jurenka proposed the project to the Hill County commissioners about two years ago.
The project "took a little time to develop," Erickson said, adding that two years is a reasonable length of time for the funding process.
"It's a good-sized project," he said. "The park covers an entire city block."
The sprinkler system will be installed by low-bidder Wadsworth Builders of Great Falls for $23,000.
The system will be fully automated and have pop-up sprinkler heads.
"It's a simple project," Erickson said. "Depending on the weather they should have it done by the end of July. It should take several weeks to complete. Our goal is to have it ready for football season."
Blue Sky junior and senior high school teams practice in the park.
Jurenka, who has a son that plays junior high football, said not having a sprinkler in the park could have become a safety issue. Previously, the only water the park received was through rainfall or by flood irrigation, she said.
"It gets pretty hard, and it's not safe for the kids," she said. " Football starts the first part of August. It'll be great to have it done by then."
Jurenka said there is a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing the project completed.
"It's a nice park; it just needs a little attention," she said, adding that CTEP grants are an invaluable resource for small communities.
"It's a great way to do things on a limited budget," she said.
Erickson said the sprinkler system is a good use of CTEP funds.
"We'd like to do more projects on the Hi-Line," he said. "We always look for opportunities to do something like this."
Hill County's share of CTEP money has been secured for the next six years, although the funding level is deteriorating, Erickson said.
"It's been significantly reduced from a year ago," he said.
MDT awarded the county $32,329 this year, compared with $39,544 in 2002 and $45,095 in 2001. Erickson said a number of factors have contributed to the decrease, including the Hi-Line's shrinking population.