city hall

A $32.9 million bid to expand and upgrade Belgrade’s sewer treatment plant exceeds engineering cost estimates by 7.5 percent, but city officials say the news isn’t all bad.

City staff and consultants are in the process of evaluating the bid and vetting the low bidder – Strategic Construction Solutions of Mesa, Ariz. – while simultaneously assessing how lower than anticipated interest rates and higher than expected impact fee receipts will affect project financing. Only two bids were received for the project, the second from Dick Anderson Construction of Bozeman for $41.1 million.

City Manager Ted Barkley said the city will secure financing through the USDA Rural Development program and state revolving loan funds through bond sales, though details for those transactions have not been finalized. However, as engineering consultant Keith Waring told the council, it appears interest rates may be lower than anticipated when the bonds are issued, which would favorably affect the repayment cost for the city. The loans will be repaid over 40 years through fees collected by ratepayers.

The city already has set aside $520,000 for the project, and will collect a sum from the airport for its fair share of capital improvement costs, Barkley said. Belgrade has collected $1 million in impact fees to go toward the project – a little more than originally anticipated because growth is happening faster than expected when models were prepared, he added.

While vigorous growth has added some dollars to project coffers, it also is forcing the city to waste no time in proceeding with the sewer project. In order to accommodate development of already approved plats in the city, Belgrade had to secure a deviance from the state Department of Environmental Quality that will allow the city to treat additional wastewater per day. Meanwhile, development projects outside already annexed areas cannot be permitted until the expansion project is complete, because they would exceed system capacity.

Earlier this month, the city council agreed to extend the project bid deadline by two weeks in hopes of attracting more than two bidders for the project, but that didn’t happen. Staff explained that most contractors are extremely busy, and speculated that other firms were unable to work the Belgrade project into their schedules.

In other business, the council on Monday:

• Scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 17 on a resolution to change the land use designation in the Bolinger 220 Plan from “future growth” to residential high density (R3) zoning, and to incorporate the plan into Belgrade’s Growth Policy. The 220 plan pertains to 220 acres of property north of the current city limits, just north of new elementary school currently under construction on Bolinger Road. The parcel is identified in the Belgrade Growth Policy as an area for future residential growth. Planning Director Jason Karp told the council developers intend to follow the current residential growth pattern of neighboring subdivisions, and will begin the process to annex, zone and subdivide the property, all of which much be approved by the Belgrade City Council. The Belgrade City-County Planning Board voted unanimously last month to recommend adopting the plan as an 

amendment to the Growth Policy, and recommended that the city and Gallatin County Commission follow suit. On Tuesday this week, the county commission approved the recommendation unanimously. The city council is expected to vote on the matter after the hearing on Aug. 17.

• Scheduled a discussion to hear from fireworks vendors and fire department and police representatives about possible changes to the city’s fireworks ordinance. Council members and staff said they heard complaints from many citizens about the length of time they had to endure noise and nuisance from fireworks in the city in late June and early July this year. During Monday’s discussion, council members and police Chief E.J. Clark agreed more fireworks were detonated over a longer period of time this year than in the past. The council batted about ideas for shortening the timeline for legal sale and detonation of fireworks and/or tightening restrictions on the types of devices permitted. Mayor Russ Nelson said hearing from interested parties and stakeholders on Aug. 17 may help the council decide whether changes to the city’s current ordinance should be considered.

• Approved agreements with Northwestern Energy to install new streetlights in the school corridor along Jackrabbit Lane and Spooner and Crown roads, as well as along Main Street.