Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

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By Nathan Bourne

Equal Assessments and Timeline Set

Seeley Lake Sewer


October 26, 2017

SEELEY LAKE - The Seeley Lake Sewer District Board was informed at their Oct. 19 board meeting that the assessment methodology was changed to using equal assessments. The timeline for the notice and protest period has been set. In other business the board accepted a new inter-local agreement with the county and was updated on water testing results.

District Manager Greg Robertson said he reevaluated the assessment methodology after the last meeting. Previously he had been instructed to come up with a method that would charge businesses a higher rate in order to lower the cost for residents.

Based on feedback at the last public informational meeting, the ongoing dialog in the newspaper and after consulting bond council and funding agencies, Robertson made the change to equal assessments.

“A simpler methodology will be easier to explain to folks,” said Robertson.

Under the new method, every lot will pay the same amount as other lots in the same phase, regardless of the type of use. Phase I is higher because they are paying for the collection system as well as the treatment plant. As future phases are built those lots will be assessed a higher rate to pay for their own collection system.

Phase I will be assessed approximately $50.51 per month for the debt service plus they will pay operations and maintenance (O&M). O&M is estimated at $36.47 per month to start for a total of $86.98 per month per lot.

The rest of the phases will pay approximately $27.70 per month plus they will continue to pay the current administrative assessment. That fee is $79.85 per year per lot with a dwelling and varies based on the square footage for all properties with no dwelling on them.

This change also levels the playing field for the notice and protest. All lots in each phase will have equal weight to their protest instead of commercial lots having a greater say.

Phase I will have a greater voice in the notice and protest due to it being assessed for both the treatment plant and collection system.

The O&M that Phase 1 will be paying and the administrative fee all other phases will be paying is not counted in the notice and protest. Only the debt service of $50.51 for Phase I and $27.71 for all other phases is counted toward the protest.

If more that 50 percent of the value of the assessment worth of landowners’ protests, the district will not be able to sell bonds. Most of the funding agencies have indicated that they would pull their funding, effectively killing the project.

The timeline and public meeting dates have been set for this fall’s notice and protest.

The public information meeting will be at the community hall Nov. 13 at 6 p.m.

The board’s November meeting has been moved to Wednesday, Nov. 8. The board will vote on a resolution to issue bonds and spread assessments. If the resolution passes, notices will be mailed out to all the landowners and printed in the Pathfinder’s Nov. 16 issue.

This will start the 30-day protest period. Protests will be accepted until the end of the workday Dec. 18. The district will attempt to tally the protests and have results available for the board’s Dec. 21 meeting.

The inter-local agreement between the sewer district and Missoula County has come due to renew. The agreement provides county employees and resources to the district free of charge and also provided a no interest loan of $110,000 to use for matching funds to apply for grants. The agreement was originally signed in 2011.

The county has rewritten the agreement to update it and to clarify a couple of things.

Notable changes to the inter-local agreement from the past agreement:

• Clarifies that the sewer district and county are separate entities and limits the county’s liability stating: “The District board of directors is ultimately responsible for all board actions and any actions performed by the general manager (currently Robertson) or any other county employee in the course and scope of any work for the District.”

• Outlines the repayment of the $110,000 loan.

If the district is able to move forward after the notice and protest period, repayment is required three months after district issues bonds for the construction or by Jan. 1, 2022, whichever is earlier.

If Rural Development cancels its funding package or if landowners’ protest is successful, the loan must be repaid out of the district’s reserve funds within three months.

• The new agreement is only for one year with no automatic extensions whereas the previous agreement was for two years with an automatic extension of two years.

• The new agreement states that the general manager and any other Missoula County employees shall not provide more than an average of 20 hours per week in support of the district.

In other business, Vince Chappell gave an update on the water testing the district does quarterly.

Chappell said the test wells in town show slightly less nitrates but are still in the range they have been in the last years. This fall’s test shows nitrate levels at 7.77 mg/L for well one, 5.36 mg/L for well two and 5.22 mg/L in well three. Chlorides ranged from 82 to 137 mg/L in the three wells.

The drinking water standard requires less than 10 mg/L of nitrates.

Every one of the wells tested in town had total coliform in them. Chappell said this is not a good situation for groundwater.

The lake and river testing sites were also similar to previous years with nitrates averaging at 0.04 mg/L. The total coliform and ecoli were “off the chart which is normal” in the lake tests. Chlorides were at 2 mg/L.

The test wells located at the proposed treatment plant site were not able to be tested in September due to the Rice Ridge Fire but June’s testing shows they are holding fairly steady and good. Nitrates are showing 0.16 to 0.19 mg/L and chlorides were lower than normal at 1 mg/L.

The district requested that the Lions Club Pond be tested. With just two tests, there is not a pattern but they ranged from 0.02 to 0.005 mg/L of nitrates and 45 to 79 mg/L of chloride. As in the other surface water tests, total coliform and ecoli were high.

The next sewer board meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8 at the Missoula County Satellite Office located at 3360 Highway 83.


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