HELENA — On Tuesday, the Lewis and Clark County Commission committed another $350,000 from their American Rescue Plan Act funding to support three water and sewer projects around the county.
The biggest grant was $250,000 in direct funding to the Eastgate Village Water and Sewer Association. That money will help them install a new well, replace aging pumps and piping and add an emergency generator.
Jean Riley, the association’s president, says the existing system is decades-old, and it’s under a great deal of pressure because of the drought.
“If something happens to our pumphouse, we do not have a way to bypass it to be able to get water to the residents,” she said. “So one of the things we want to do is put a bypass in, so if for some reason we lost the pumphouse or lost the booster pumps, we could still get water to the residents.”
Eastgate Water and Sewer serves about 600 households and just under 2,000 residents.
The entire project is expected to cost about $1.5 million. Riley said, if they attempted to fund it all themselves, they would likely have to take out loans – and probably raise rates for customers.
As part of ARPA, both the state and individual counties received money for water and sewer projects. Eastgate applied for a competitive state grant to cover half of the project cost, but their application wasn’t scored highly enough to secure funding. The association will now contribute about $500,000 from its own reserves.
In addition to the $250,000 approved Tuesday, the county commission had already supported using $750,000 in “minimum allocation” ARPA funding for the Eastgate project. Minimum allocation funding is available to each county based on their size, and county leaders may ask that it be used for any eligible project, but the state must certify that a project meets the requirements to get that funding.
“It’s very helpful,” Riley said. “We really appreciate the county to be able to bring forward some additional funds for us, so we can get this project going. We would like to build it next year.”
On Tuesday, the county commission also awarded $14,750 to the Craig Water and Sewer District. They have reported ongoing problems with their wastewater treatment plant, and this funding will pay for analysis to identify any deficiencies that need to be addressed.
Commissioners also supported giving $88,000 in minimum allocation funding to the LaCasa Grande Estates Water and Sewer District. The subdivision just north of East Helena is seeking to add another well because their current system isn’t able to handle periods of high water demand during the summer.
The state will have the final say on whether to approve the grant to LaCasa Grande Estates.
County staff says the commission has now allocated $1,569,145 in direct ARPA funding, and they have supported $898,500 in minimum allocation grants. Commissioners say they’re focusing on spending that will have an immediate impact.
“What we’re really trying to do is look at those projects that we can make a big difference for these systems, that is lasting and is not something that will require ongoing funding or a burden for those communities going forward,” said Commissioner Andy Hunthausen.