A few ideas bubbled to the surface last week from residents who offered alternatives to the Basin Water and Sewer District’s plan to take out a loan to install water meters and put the Quartz Avenue pump house back online.
Using ultraviolet light to disinfect the water, as well as hiring a commercial leak locator, were the two main ideas proposed in the hour allotted for public comments during the Board’s regular Aug. 11 meeting.
The Board did raise two concerns with those proposals — as using UV light rather than chemicals would require a larger building and more equipment to meet state requirements, and leak-finding equipment is often ineffective on the asbestos concrete (AC) pipe that is currently used in Basin.
In addition to using chlorine to disinfect the water, the District must also use orthophosphate to counteract the corrosion of pipes from water with a low Ph level.
The Board also encouraged residents with additional ideas to submit those in writing.
The Board’s plan includes a $196,000 loan from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, to be paid back over 20 years, to install water meters and put the Quartz Avenue pump house back online — the latter to provide a redundant source of water, which is also superior to that now being used.
Water from the Quartz Avenue pump house has a higher Ph level, so using that source will allow the District to decrease the amount of orthophosphate.
Jack Lundberg, who was representing a group of residents, wanted to know why the Board was “obsessed with curb stops.”
Curb stops are the device used to turn water on and off at a residence. Currently, there are 84 leaking curb stops, which the District has determined are contributing to the excessive water use in the community. The water meters would be used to replace the curb stops and allow the District to assess water usage by each customer. The meters are also required by many funding sources and will aid in getting money in the future for more costly repairs and replacements, such as the system’s main, which is nearing the end of its lifespan, said District Operator and Clerk Nissa Manley.
However, if meters are installed, any leaks discovered on the property owner’s side would be their responsibility.
Lundberg said that the potential cost to repair a leak is a concern among residents, many of whom are at or near the poverty line.
“Look at the demographic,” he said, “we’re a dying town here.”
Lundburg also criticized the District for failing to have a generator as a back-up in the event of a power outage.
Manley said the state did not require a generator as the system has sufficient water capacity as a backup.
After the public comments period, Board appeared to zero in on options two and four of those offered by its bond attorney as alternatives to the $12 a month now being charged to owners of unimproved lots.
Option 2 would remove the $12 for unimproved lots and tack that same amount onto the active users base rate for a new monthly fee of $60.
Option 4 cuts the $12 in half, and only charges the 55 unconnected properties with a curb stop, resulting in the base rate for active users going up to $57.38.
All alternatives offered by the bond attorney would still bring in the same amount of revenue — money needed to run the system and pay the debt service on the loan being considered for the water meters and Quartz Avenue pump house project.
The rate change approved in April is a base rate of $48 a month for residential and commercial users, plus incremental charges for usage beyond 10,000 gallons and imposed once the water meters are installed.
Board member Brian Gasch said the $6 a month would be closer to the amount he paid when the District levied mills on all property owners in the district, and that levy ran from 1974 to 2014. While the mill levy was in place, Gasch said he paid $48 a year and that was based on the value of his house. Under the $6 option, those with unimproved lots would pay $72 a year compared to $144 for $12 a month.
The Board wants more public input on the four options before making a final decision.