City gets $1.9 million for water project

By 
M.P. Regan
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Smooth transition

Dillon Mayor John McGinley, just six hours into his new job, addressed a gathering of state and city officials on Monday during a presentation to the City of Dillon from Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte of a big check representing a $1.9 grant to help with Dillon’s water project. Former Mayor Michael Klakken, in the background, enjoys McGinley’s informal style. J.P. Plutt photos

Good work

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte acknowledged both John McGinley and Michael Klakken, Dillon’s new and former mayor, during a presentation Monday at City Hall.

Most people coming to Dillon’s City Hall on a typical weekday about water and sewer issues show up to report problems with their service or to gripe about their bills.

But the first weekday of 2022 turned out to be no typical day at Dillon’s City Hall, which on Monday gained a visitor of a different sort on a decidedly different mission.

“It is my pleasure to present to you the first check for $1.9 million dollars for reimbursement of your local drinking water project,” announced Governor Greg Gianforte at a Monday afternoon ceremony in City Hall, where he handed over the seven-figure check to new City of Dillon Mayor John McGinley and McGinley’s predecessor, Mike Klakken, also on hand Monday.

“These ARPA dollars are funding the replacement of water lines here, to provide safe, reliable drinking water for the city of Dillon,” Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director Amanda Kaster of the $1,903,421 check during Monday’s ceremony in Dillon, which is getting the first dispersal of the state’s water and sewer infrastructure funds from the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) monies sent to Montana last year as part of federal pandemic relief efforts.

“These funds are enabling our communities across Montana to address some of these water and sewer issues while also keeping our water and sewer rates affordable, and by upgrading and improve our aging water and sewer infrastructure, we’re improving public health and well-being,” added Kaster.

“We’re increasing our communities’ resiliencies and making Montana a stronger community and state. And we’re insuring that Montana’s water resources provide benefits to provide for our present and future generations,” continued Kaster of the dozens of awards for water and sewer improvement grants announced by the governor’s office in September.

“We identified and invested $250 million dollars in the most critical water and sewer upgrades across the entire State of Montana. And now with the first few projects underway we’re getting these funds out on the ground,” noted Gianforte, who said the long-range benefits of investing in public water and sewer projects fit his view on how the ARPA monies could best be spent.

“When ARPA was signed into law by President Biden last year, we committed to being responsible stewards of this money,” said Gianforte of the almost $2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed last year by the US Congress to help the nation overcome the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“As I said, if Congress is going to spend our kids’ and our grandkids’ money, let’s spend it in a way so our kids and grandkids actually benefit from it. And that’s what we’re doing,” asserted Gianforte of the approximately $2 billion in pandemic relief funds earmarked for Montana.

Around $2 million that money arrived in Dillon on Monday for a project to update a municipal water system that included elements dating back to the days of many residents’ greatgrandparents.

The Dillon’s multi-million-dollar, multi-year Water Improvement Project broke ground last summer.

Estimated to cost about $4.4 million by the time it’s completed, the project will replace thousands of linear feet of old cast iron water mains and transmission lines—some installed around a century ago—with new pipe stretching from within the city to across the Beaverhead River and private farmlands to the city’s westside reservoir tanks

“This old line was installed in the 1920’s and the city completed a minimal engineering study around 2014, which showed that sections of the water line had about ten years left. And so that’s what really started, one of the reasons that the project got started so we could try and minimize any leakage into the groundwater aquifer,” recalled Klakken of the genesis of the project.

“Currently the project entails replacing the main line distribution line with new HDPE line,” added Klakken, referring to the High Density PolyEthylene plastic waterline being used in the project.

“Hopefully, with the new poly, new generations, we can go maybe 150 years before we have to do it again,” stated McGinley at the close of the ceremony on Monday, his first weekday in office as Dillon’s mayor.

“Can we take it to the bank now?” McGinley asked Gianforte of the $1,903,421 check.

“You just need a deposit slip,” smiled Gianforte of an addition to city coffers that should help ease the grimaces of Dillon ratepayers when writing checks to cover their monthly water bills.

“Taking this grant will really save the city ratepayers a lot of money,” noted Klakken, who essentially came out of retirement to attend and speak at the ceremony on Monday—his first weekday since stepping down as mayor at the end of December.

“So, the rates that we have set can now—once everything’s done—be decreased. That was one thing I really tried to do throughout my term is keep the rates as low as we can,” insisted Klakken on Monday of efforts that included the refinancing of city water bonds at lower rates that will spare city ratepayers millions of dollars in interest payments in the coming decades.

“When we get this going, I would recommend next year, once we get all the money,” Klakken urged members of the city council three weeks ago during the last council meeting of 2021 while discussing the $1.9 million grant about to come to city.

“And the project is done to adjust the $12 a month down to whatever seems like it would work,” said Klakken, referring to the dozen-dollar monthly charge the council voted to add to the average city water bill, starting last July, to help cover payments on an approximately $3.75 million, 20-year water revenue bond the city took out last year to help bankroll the project.

“Once you find out how much we are going to end up having to pay and adjust accordingly, be as nice as you can to the public,” Klakken urged the council during his last city council meeting as mayor on Dec. 15.

“I really want to thank the groups that have helped the city fund this project,” said Klakken during Monday’s ceremony with the governor.

“They include: the State Revolving Fund, also known as SRF, which has lent the city approximately $1.869 million; the Treasure State Endowment, also known as TSEP, that has granted the city $500,000 towards this engineering construction; along with the renewable resource grant loan, which is also known as RGL, which granted the city $125,000,” said Klakken of a series of funds the city secured for the project during his eight years as mayor.

“Now, the last funder of this project, which is also why we’re here in this meeting, is the ARPA,” Klakken said Monday of the $1.9 million.

“A lot of thanks to Mayor Klakken,” said McGinley, acknowledging the efforts of his predecessor on funding the project during his two terms as mayor—an eight-year stretch that began in January 2014 and ended last week.

“For getting this project, more or less, up to the point where I can take the victory lap.”

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