Above - Twin Bridges town council approved a resolution to create a Special Improvement District to handle stormwater runoff in the town at its Tuesday, January 8 meeting. (J. Taylor)

Twin Bridges will get Special Improvement District

Council approves storm water effort, will cost parcel owners $155 each

TWIN BRIDGES – Twin Bridges town council unanimously approved a resolution to create a storm water Special Improvement District in the town and proceed with $600,000 plans for collecting and moving storm water from city streets at their January 8 meeting.

The vote came despite the objections of some town residents, several who attended the meeting.

Two former council members, David Smith and Annette McLean had some questions about the effort.

Smith wanted to know what the resolution to create the district would entail and if the $600,000 price tag was the total cost or what it would cost to do 6th Avenue only.

McLean wanted to know the school district’s involvement also, more breakdowns on the costs of the individual segments of the project, how the town would cost-share labor and expenses by doing work in-house, and a time frame for completion.

Councilman Matt Greemore told them that the project included Madison St., Sixth St., Third St. and land behind the school. All of these areas are included in the project. However, Greemore said, there was not set schedule for completion of the project, the focus was the highest priority areas first; then move on to other parts of the plan as money became available.

A large part of the work would be installing 15 infiltration systems, cisterns to catch and hold storm water, on Madison St. and this street’s intersections. Each of these cisterns would cost about $10,000 - $15,000.

Greemore and Councilman Nolan Frandsen noted that the first priority was Sixth St., at a cost of about $200,000, a third of the $600,000 price tag. The overall storm water project was estimated to be $1.2 million as initially proposed, but council decided to scale things back to what was affordable, what was priority, and this was the $600,000 price tag items.

To pay for the project Greemore noted that each parcel within the district would be assessed $155, this to be paid over a period of the next 20 years, at a rate of $23.10 per year.

The time frame for the project to begin, Greemore and Mayor Tom Hyndman said, was to begin the priority items this summer, laying pipe on Sixth St., at the school, then in 2020 work on lower priority items.

Jeremiah Theys, PE, project manager for the storm water effort from Great West Engineering, told Smith that the three school and town parcels would be treated the same as any other parcels and assessed the $155 fee.

Resident Leslie Adams told council she didn’t think she’d been notified properly about the project and how it would impact the 62 parcels she owned within the special district. She hoped council would reconsider voting on the project until more information could be gathered.

“I’m going to get hit 62 times for $155, and I’m one of the 81 businesses in town,” Adams said. “I feel like there was not adequate communication on the tax increase (special district).”

Greemore and town clerk/treasurer Kristi Millhouse explained to Adams that the town had been discussing this issue for months, that legal notices had been published pertaining to the plans, that all of the parcel owners impacted by the district had been sent a mid-December letter advising them of what was intended, that the public was invited to share their ideas about the project, and other means were used to communicate what was intended.

Adams didn’t understand why this information and updated minutes of council meetings were not on the town’s website.

Council members told her that the town had looked into updates for the website as well as software to codify town resolutions, but the $4,000 cost for this was too much, also that council meeting minutes were not available until they were formally approved by council, a month after the original meeting.

Adams wondered about the vested interests of council members.

Greemore told her that several council members were also impacted by the decision. He had two lots to cover, another had four lots, another two lots.

“We want to make the community better in the areas we’re talking about,” Greemore said. 

Millhouse and Greemore also pointed out that of the 259 parcel owners the council had received just 14 complaints about the project, representing about 5 percent of the property that would assessed. This meant, Greemore said, that 245 parcel owners or 95 percent of those affected by the special district either approved of the project or at least understood why it was being done.

On a motion by Greemore and Councilman Joe Willauer, the special district was created.

In other business:

• Maintenance Supervisor Sam Novich told council that he would visit with Energy Lab to test and monitor the town’s water supply, a requirement, during January. Since these tests resulted in a sizeable bill, and Energy Lab often ran specials in January, he could save the town some money in this way.

• Novich also told council that disposable toilet wipes were clogging up the sewer system, and couldn’t go through the pumps. Every couple weeks, Novich said, the maintenance department was forced to lift a heavy pump out , clean it and discard the balled up wipes. He wanted to install a lift to make this operation safer for the maintenance crew. 

• Hyndman said he intended to talk to State House District 71 Representative Ray Shaw at a meeting of Montana Mayors about how House Bill 124, dealing with cuts to the “Entitlement Fund,” would result in a $40,000 loss for the town. “We badly need this,” he said.

• Millhouse looked into an alternative website program that would cost the town about $1,200 - $2,000 and would be able to create and codify the town’s resolutions – required every five years – saving the town money. She wanted to council to think about this and would bring more information in the future. Willauer said if this could eliminate the $2,500 - $3,000 the town pays to have it’s resolutions codified, it would be a “no brainer.” 

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