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By Nathan Bourne

Construction Estimate Climbs $2.2 Million

Seeley Lake Sewer


SEELEY LAKE - The Seeley Lake Sewer District Board received an updated estimate for the construction of the wastewater treatment plant and Phase I of the collection system. The new estimate of $14 million was briefly discussed at its May 18 board meeting along with this summer’s planned public outreach and the board’s ability to advocate for the project.

The United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development (RD) requested an updated construction estimate to account for the start of construction beginning in 2018 instead of 2017.

The estimate climbed $2.2 million despite the district cutting out service line restoration on private property, the greenhouse covering the treatment basins and nearly $500,000 in construction engineering that can be done by Missoula County.

District Manager Greg Robertson explained that market factors are causing the inflation in construction cost.

“There are contracts that are being bid right now that aren’t getting any bidders, big ones. That’s a sign that the contractors are just busy and that’s going to reflect on our costs,” said Robertson.

Robertson, who is the Director of Missoula County Public Works, said he noticed the climb in construction costs a couple of weeks ago. The county opened bids for asphalt and they are coming in 20 percent higher this summer over last summer.

Though the project estimates have gone up, Robertson said there might be additional funding available from RD to help bridge the gap.

In an email to the Pathfinder, RD’s Steve Troendle said that the sewer district would need to apply for additional funds to be considered. RD’s full year 2017 budget has passed but they haven’t received formal notice on the proposed allocation of funds for Montana projects. Additional funds from RD may come available in August that the district could compete for.

Board member Mark Butcher questioned why they cannot bid the project instead of having to go off estimates.

Robertson explained that the district needs the estimates to give landowners an estimated assessment for the notice and protest period. Bidding can only begin after the notice and protest period is done.

The board approved a bid at its April meeting from PartnersCreative to run a public relations program for the district. Robertson said at the April meeting that PartnersCreative wanted to have a public meeting with the board to go over details at the end of May.

Robertson informed the board at the May 18 meeting that he had misspoken and that the meeting would be just between himself, the engineers and PartnersCreative. They will discuss the format of the public outreach and do not need a quorum of the board present.

Robertson asked Deputy County Attorney Matt Jennings for his opinion on whether the board could advocate for the project.

“The statutes are mostly dealing with ballot issues. That is what the language is specific to. This [the proposed sewer] is not a ballot issue. So the statue doesn’t necessarily apply and it’s certainly a gray area,” said Robertson. “I think your flexibility to advocate for one position or another as a board or as an individual [is that] you do not have the same restrictions you did with the [election].”

In an email to Robertson, Jennings agreed but cautioned to “tread lightly.” Jennings also noted that he does not represent the sewer district.

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


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