Friday, January 19, 2018

$2 million sewer replacement project on track in Columbus

The Columbus Town Council heard presentations from two Interstate Engineering representatives about a proposed sewer replacement project at the Dec. 1 meeting.
There are several areas in Columbus where the sewer lines are known to be in need of replacement. These sections of sewer line have had problems in recent years, frequently because of tree roots damaging old clay pipes. About half of the town’s 13 miles of sewer lines are clay tile, while the other half are PVC.
Public Works Director Dennis Holten said the town could handle replacing pipes in these problem areas without much borrowing.
Shoots Veis, a senior project engineer with Interstate Engineering, said a larger project could make sense due to economy of scale. The idea is that interest rates are pretty good right now, he said.
Interstate Engineering Funds Administrator Tom Erskine presented the council with a funding proposal. The proposal accounts for a large sewer replacement project as well as refinancing the balance from the last sewer project in 1999.
The estimated balance on the existing Rural Development loan by June, 2015 will be $580,500. The scheduled payment on the current loan is $7,050 per month, but the town has been paying $10,000 per month. The extra payment has reduced the balance and saved the town a considerable amount of money in interest. The interest rate on the current loan is 4 3/8 percent.
Erskine’s funding proposal called for refinancing the balance of the existing loan and borrowing another $1.5 million for a large sewer replacement project. The $2 million would be financed through a State Revolving Fund loan currently available at 2.5 percent interest for a 20-year term. The new payments would be $12,179 per month instead of the $10,000 the town is currently paying. The increased payment would cost an average residential user an extra $2.12 per month.
Erskine said water and sewer rates in Columbus are considerably less than those in many other Montana communities.
Council members discussed the proposed project and asked additional questions of Veis and Erskine before agreeing to move forward with the project as proposed.
The planned sewer replacement project, with a budget of $1.5 million, will allow the replacement of approximately 4,000 – 5,000 feet of sewer pipes. Work should be able to start in the fall of 2015 and continue in spring of 2016. The worst sections will be replaced first with additional sections being identified and prioritized.
Fire Department
Columbus Fire Rescue has handled 600 calls so far this year. The department responded to 29 calls since the last council meeting, including 11 medical calls (three in town, eight rural), three transports, seven MVA (rural), two gas smell (town), one CO alarm (rural), one missing person (town), one building fire alarm (rural), two agency assistance and one public assistance.
Chief Rich Cowger is currently working on a Firefighter Assistance grant to replace the department’s air compressor and Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).
Winter is training season for the fire department. Plans are being made for various firefighter classes, along with working with Montana Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) to plan spring wildland fire training. The department had a very good refresher course for the EMS crews Nov. 21-23.
Another recruit academy is also being planned with about 10 people scheduled to go through all or part of the training.
The department is beginning to plan activities for next year in celebration of the department’s 100-year anniversary.
Police
The last two weeks have been busy for the police department due to two major cases, according to Chief Bill Pronovost.
Pronovost had been planning to trade old cameras toward the purchase of new body cameras from TASER, Inc. The department was coordinating the purchase with the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office to obtain a better price. Pronovost said he is now postponing the purchase of body cameras after a recent announcement by President Obama that the Department of Justice will be providing grant funding for police body cameras.
Columbus Police officers will be attending a radar recertification class Dec. 8. The class will be taught by Montana Highway Patrol. According to Chief Pronovost, Montana law does not require officers to be radar certified, but he thinks officers need to keep current, particularly for court cases.
The police department will be working on having trailers and vehicles removed from streets over the next few weeks. Vehicles may be parked on town property for no more than five days under state law.
Columbus Police Department handled 158 complaints during the month of November, including, 35 traffic incidents, 35 breath analysis, 16 animal control, 14 citizen assistance, 11 agency assistance, nine well being and seven suspicious activity or person
The department also issued 13 citations in November, including one citation for possession of dangerous drugs.
Public Works
The backup generator at the Heritage Park well was utilized during the electrical outage last week. According to Public Works Director Dennis Holten, the generator worked well and it was nice to have it available.
Holten has been collecting sewer maintenance records for the past seven years in preparation for the sewer replacement project. He has also been working on issues related to the sewer backup claim from last October.
COP Construction has concluded work on the drainage project for the winter. Pipe was installed from Diamond to Pratten. A conflict with Century Link communication lines at Pratten resulted in work being stopped until next spring.
Holten has been in contact with staff at the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) about the sidewalk improvement project on Main Street. Plans are still in the preliminary stages, but MDT staff will meet with the town once plans are complete.
The department is working on Christmas decorations this week. Holten hopes to have most of the decorations up by Friday.
Town Attorney
Town Attorney Doug Howard worked on two bench trials along with six additional criminal cases in City Court since the last council meeting.
Howard also prepared a memo for the council describing options for creation of a cemetery district.