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Culbertson Council Plans Work Sessions To Address Possible Water Rate Increases

The Culbertson City Council held their regular monthly meeting on Monday, April 8, at 5:30 p.m., where the council decided to hold workshop meetings to discuss potentially increasing water rates, with sewer and garbage not included in the increase. The council is considering this as there is not enough incoming revenue from water bills to accommodate the costs of water main break repairs. The first work session was held Monday, April 15, at the Town Hall.
Three options were presented to the council, and each is to be discussed at the work sessions. They are considering a base rate increase, a per 1,000 gallon usage rate increase or both. In the last fiscal year, the town spent some $15,000 to $18,000 in water main repairs, and Bob Jasper of Public Works noted that a break typically costs around $3,000 to repair, noting that there was one break that cost $7,000 to repair.
Jasper said that the breaks occur all over the town and are due to cast iron pipes that, as the earth shifts, cleanly snap as if they were cut with a saw. Time was dedicated to hearing public input from meeting attendees. During the workshops, the council will also analyze more data gathered to see exactly whose bills would be affected, as those on fixed income are of their concern. Mayor Larry Crowder noted that he hopes to find a “safe place” without asking too much from taxpayers through the work done at the work sessions.
The Theodore Roosevelt Expressway was noted to have been federally approved to be built between Watford City and Interstate 94. The next meeting regarding the water plant is slated to be held in August and discussions shall ensue on needed tank repairs.
Kenny Forbregd gave the council an update on the Fish Pond, noting that he has been working with the National Guard and Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Fort Peck. Forbregd is busy filling out applications complete with all requirements needed for the pond to be submitted prior to their due date, Oct. 1.
Over the course of the past week, Jeremy Fadness of WWC Engineering noted that contractors will be back in Culbertson to finish the water tank, with an estimated completion date of two to three weeks to a month following all tests as long as the weather permits.
The council is still working with the Montana Department of Transportation on the U.S. Highway 2 project and shared that they are continuing to resolve the issue regarding several survey markers that were damaged or destroyed. State law lists that all monuments must be put back into their place, regardless of their condition, and several of them were not placed back for unknown reasons.
Water mains and hydrants are to be replaced and updated to being six inches or eight inches in diameter. These water mains and hydrants are on third avenue west to broadway and from third avenue east to fifth avenue east. Fadness presented the council with a preliminary engineer’s cost estimate of $257,400.
Fadness noted that he expects that cost number to decline once the council begins talking with MDT regarding the Hwy 2 project to see if the costs are included in the project agreements. The town is also searching for other funding options.
Bruce Houle, councilmember, noted his concern that the project will affect the water drainage capabilities for residents that are north of Hwy 2, as the project will go through the storm water lines. Currently, agreements that have yet to be signed list that it is the town’s responsibility to maintain MDT’s storm drain systems, which Fadness noted would be an extensive labor on the town. Working with Crowder, Fadness, and state representatives from MDT, Houle voted in favor of developing a committee to discuss the matters before any paperwork is signed. The council approved.
Crowder presented the council with a draft of a sketch of what the possible future firehall would look like, complete with restrooms, an office for the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office so that they no longer need to have a small space behind the Town Hall and room for the back-up ambulance to be parked so that it does not need to sit outside all winter.
The total cost estimate, which Crowder noted is likely inflated, is $2.5 million. He is in search for other funding mechanisms, possible property to build on or existing buildings for sale. Much of the Culbertson Volunteer Fire Department’s fleet is parked outside currently, according to Crowder.
Tiffany Nielsen was hired as the Culbertson Pool’s manager, with Aaliyah Moon as assistant manager. Lifeguards hired for the summer are Fallon Sun Rhodes, Kylie Portra, McKinsey Justice, Johanna Wilhorn, Cody Larsen, Chase Lambert, Anissa Bengochea and Clayton Marchwick. The only new lifeguards this year are Portra and Bengochea.
The council is working to apply to a grant that is available to every town in the state of Montana’s for needed street repairs, such as potholes, lights and curbs. Last year, Culbertson received $8,268 from the same grant, and if they receive it this year, the total will be $17,476.