By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Rudyard residents are paying $75 a month for water and sewer service - including a sewer system that backs up about 25 times a year - a bill that's 2 times the state's target rate for that community, according to Bear Paw Development Corp.
With the help of state and federal grants and low-interest loans, Rudyard may finally at least get what it pays for.
Bear Paw Development has worked with Rudyard to develop an $884,000 repair project that would replace more than 6,000 feet of clay pipes with PVC. That would update one quarter of the area's pipes, Bear Paw Development representative Annmarie Robinson told the Hill County commissioners Monday.
The clay sewer lines have suffered root intrusion as well as complete deterioration in some areas, Robinson said.
The repair costs are "modest" and the service is "critical," she added.
Robinson asked the County Commission to sponsor Rudyard for a Community Development Block Grant that would pay for $344,400 of the project's costs.
"We are in dire straits to get this done," she told the commissioners.
The commission preliminarily agreed to help, but will forward all documents to the Hill County Attorney's Office for review.
Robinson expects that the other half of the project will come from Treasure State Endowment Project funds and a low-interest loan.
TSEP grants are subject to legislative approval, and Robinson was told that the state will ask lawmakers to approve $442,000 - the amount requested by Bear Paw Development - for the Rudyard project.
The state may also ask for another $83,000, she said, adding that it's unprecedented for the state to seek more than the community has requested.
"It's unheard of, absolutely unheard of," Robinson said.
"That just shows the need," Commissioner Kathy Bessette said.
Jim Edgcomb, who manages the TSEP program for the state Department of Commerce, said today the state's potential offer of more money is "very unusual."
"It was the fact that they have very high rates in relationship to the target rate, and that's percent of the median household income," he said. "Anyone that's over 150 percent of the target rate, we look at potentially providing more money for them."
The additional funds would eliminate the need for any loans and eliminate the need for a rate hike.
"What we're trying to do is keep the rates where they are," Edgcomb said.
Work will begin next spring, Robinson said.
Rudyard created a water and sewer district last year to prepare grant applications for the project.
The state has also reserved about $450,000 in TSEP funds for three Hill County bridge repair projects. That would pay half of the $901,000 cost for repairing the Big Sage, Line Weaver and Henry's Culvert bridges.