Libby City Council: Firms given green light to identify, prioritize water and sewer issues

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By JOHN BLODGETT

The Western News

The Libby City Council on Monday approved two items allowing the preparation of preliminary engineering reports on water and sewer systems to proceed.

Council members unanimously approved the selection of two Kalispell firms — TD&H Engineering and Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services — that will work in tandem to prepare both reports.

Council members likewise agreed to pay the firms $60,000 for the work.

The purpose of a preliminary engineering report, or PER, is “to prioritize the issues and problems that need to be addressed in the water and sewer plants as well as the distribution systems,” City Administrator Jim Hammons explained in an email. “The PERs are required to access all federal and state funding programs for water and sewer projects.”

Thus far, the city has received two $15,000 planning grants to apply to the project. One grant is from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and will help fund preparation of the water PER. It was applied for in June and awarded Nov. 9, 2017. Preparation of the sewer PER will be aided by a Treasure Statement Endowment Program grant from the Montana Department of Commerce that the city applied for in September and was awarded Dec. 1.

Each grant requires the city to provide an equal amount of matching funds. Hammons said at Monday’s City Council meeting that the city could likely pay for the water PER out of the water budget, while matching funds for the sewer PER would likely come from either an Intercap loan or from economic development funds.

Mike Fraser, an engineer who contracts with the city who is overseeing the PER process, said specific water and sewer projects would likely be identified through the public meeting process in January and February.

The two engineering firms were chosen in late May from a pool of four candidates. The agreement the city has with them leaves the door open for engaging with the team on other projects “if performance is acceptable” on the PER work and “as funding becomes available.”

“This does not tie the city into using that team for ongoing work,” Fraser told the council members. “I like to think of it as a carrot.”

The first drafts of the PERs are due within 60 days of Monday’s vote, which put the agreement into effect. The city then has 14 days to provide feedback, after which the engineering team has 30 days to complete the final drafts.

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