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The Cut Bank City Council has some decisions to make when it comes to Phase 4 of the City’s Water Distribution System Upgrade. The City’s engineering firm, Great West Engineering, made a presentation to the Council last month on storage tank alternatives and the impact each would have on local ratepayers. 

In addition to replacing the one million gallon steel storage tank, Phase 4 includes replacing 5,200 feet of water mains. Phase 3 of the project replaced 9,000 feet of water mains. Phase 4 of the project is scheduled to begin later this summer.

The Council tabled taking action on the storage tank proposals at their January meeting, but then voted to pursue the $2.02 million pre-stressed concrete storage tank option at its Feb. 3 meeting.

This is the most expensive, but also the most durable and long-lasting option. The expected service life of the concrete tank is 50 years.

With an estimated cost of $2.02 million, this option will mean a rate increase over the 20 years of approximately $7-$9 per month. If financed for 30 years, the added cost to ratepayers would be $6-$7 per month.

City officials last raised the monthly base water fee for residents in August 2018. At that time, Great West Engineering anticipated the increase needed to fund Phase 4 would be approximately $3 per month.

Councilman Erik Nelson made the motion to “proceed with the pre-stressed concrete tank, with a rate hike of $6-$7 per month and financing to be 30 years.” The motion passed unanimously.

Council President Tim Curtiss conducted the Feb. 3 meeting. Councilman Tim Kipp and Mayor Raemaeker were both absent from the meeting.

According to Joel Pilcher, PE, Great West Engineering, the City of Cut Bank will borrow $2.6 million from the State Revolving Loan Fund for Phase 4 . City officials are still waiting to hear if up to $500,000 will be in the form of loan forgiveness, which would not have to be repaid.

“We should hopefully know something later this week,” said Pilcher. “The loan will be combined with $875,000 in grant funds the City has been awarded and $250,000 of City reserves,” he explained.

Two other less expensive options for repairing or replacing the steel storage tank were discussed at the Jan. 21 and Feb. 3 meetings. The least expensive option would be recoating the existing tank.

“The above ground metal of our current storage tank is very thin,” explained Mayor Dan Raemaeker in a recent interview. The least expensive alternative would be to recoat the existing steel tank. The recent “buckling” of the floor of the tank, however, presents concerns about the feasibility of this option for long-term usage.

“Recoating the tank would mean it would need to be taken out of service for a couple of months,” explained Raemaeker, adding this creates some operational challenges for the City and as well as the residents.

The engineers estimate the  cost, which would be spread over a 20-year period, would result in an estimated increase to each ratepayer of $3 to $5 per month. With this option, the tank would either need to be recoated again or replaced within the next 20 years.

Another option is replacing the old steel tank with a new glass-fused to steel tank at an estimate cost of $1.6 million. Financing the project over 20 years would mean a monthly increase to ratepayers of $6-$8 per month. If financed for 30 years, the monthly increase would drop to $5-$6.

Raemaeker said there are many upsides to this option, including:

 •It has the quickest construction time.

•The tank is expandable.

•It has an expected 40-year service life.

There will be some additional maintenance costs with this option, he added. “The sealant on the tank panel seams and bolts will need to be replaced in 10-15 years,” said Raemaeker. Great West Engineering did not provide the cost on replacing the sealant.

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