CHOTEAU — Some Choteau residents hoping to get connected to the city’s water system may now have to wait a little longer.
A state commission this week recommended using federal American Rescue Plan funding for 74 water and sewer projects across the state, including the one in Choteau.
But that’s not actually good news for the city. Choteau Mayor Chris Hindoien was looking forward Friday to getting a large number of city residents currently on well water connected to the city’s water system.
“Currently, our city sewer is a flat rate. A residential home is $50, a duplex is $50 per unit, so it goes up from there. We do that because without having everybody on the system we don't have an equitable way to rate for our sewer,” Hindoien explained. "If we had everybody hooked on to city water, we could go back and change the way we do our billing because we would know 'x' in should be 'x' out and it would balance out for us and make it easier. So an average water bill in the city of Choteau would be, say, $42, so your sewer bill then would be $42. So you'd save some money either way."
Prior to the state commission’s meeting Thursday, he was hopeful the $5.8 million of ARPA money the city requested would be granted because the state ranked the city’s project as one of the top 60 communities across the state.
“Governor (Greg) Gianforte’s press release a while back showed that there was enough funding from the original ARPA program to fund somewhere between 59 and 60 projects,” said Hindoien.
But with the state advisory commission recommending limiting each project to $2 million of ARPA money, the city’s project will have to be scaled back if Gianforte decides to approve the recommendation.
Scaling back the project, Hindoien said, may require the project to be re-engineered and re-reviewed by the state and that process would likely cost at least $100,000.
“If Choteau wants to grow and we want this community to remain vibrant, we’re only as strong as what’s underneath us as a foundation and both our water and our sewer lines are in desperate need of repair,” Hindoien said.
If the city gets the $5.8 million, work would likely begin sometime next spring. If the project has to be scaled back, Hindoien said public hearings would be held.
“We’d tell folks in the city, ‘Alright, folks. Tell us what you think you want to do (with the money the city got)’,” said Hindoien.
The mayor said he has called and e-mailed the governor’s office, urging the governor to fully fund the first 60 projects that had been approved for ARPA funding, but as of Friday had not yet received a response.