The Basin County Water and Sewer District is proposing changing its rate structure and issuing about $196,000 in bonds to pay for a host of system improvements. Property owners and customers are encouraged to attend — ideally by phone, given COVID-19 social distancing — a public hearing at the Basin Community Center at 6:30 p.m. April 7 to learn more and provide input.

A key proposal is to change to a usage-based rate structure. Currently, residential users pay a flat fee of $48 a month and businesses $68.80. Under the proposal, residential and business users both would pay $48 a month for up to 10,000 gallons; for 10,001 to 15,000 gallons, the rate would be $4.50 per 1,000 gallons; for 15,001 to 20,000, it would be $5.50 per 1,000 gallons; usage above 20,000 gallons would cost $6.50 for every 1,000 gallons. The new rates would go into effect June 1.

The district is also proposing to issue approximately $196,000 in bonds, payable over 20 years at 2.5%, to pay for a host of system improvements. These would include installing water meters, returning a pump house to service and replacing curb stops.

Nissa Manley, the district’s operator and clerk, said by email that “bringing our old pump house back on line … is important for several reasons.” Because the old pump draws from an aquifer with a neutral pH balance versus the current “slightly acidic” water source, putting it back in service “should enable us to use less chemicals while still protecting pipes.”

“The acidic water is the main reason why we have developed issues with copper in our water that we have to treat for,” she explained.

In addition, having access to two separate pump houses would allow for redundancy so that “when we have an issue with one, the other can take over,” Manley wrote.

The district is also proposing to replace curb stops, the valves used to turn on and off water service to each customer. According to Manley, about 85% of Basin’s curb stops “are either failed or failing.”

“Replacing all of these bad valves allows the water company to protect residences in the event of a water leak on the premises,” she wrote.

Improvements would begin “hopefully sometime in May,” and sewer rates would remain unchanged, Manley noted.

Because Gov. Steve Bullock has asked Montanans to practice social distancing and shelter in place to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus, the district is encouraging people to remotely attend and participate in the April 7 hearing in one of two ways: by calling 253-215-8782 and entering the meeting ID 503568080, or by logging into https://zoom.us/j/503568080 using a computer equipped with a microphone and video camera.

“All persons calling in will be provided the same opportunity to testify, comment and participate as if they were attending the hearing in person,” states the notice for the hearing. “All district board members and staff will attend telephonically except one person.”

For more information, contact Manley by writing to the district at P.O. Box 7, Basin, Montana, 59631 or by calling 406-465-7454.

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