To develop a plan to extend water and sewer into the TEDD in Lockwood was given a green light by county commissioners in discussions last week with Big Sky EDA staff.
“Get started,” directed Don Jones, Chairman of the Board of Yellowstone County Commissioners.
EDA Director Steve Arveschoug said that they would like to be ready to apply immediately for funds from the state as soon as the State Legislature determines how they want to utilize some of the funds they will receive under the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan (ARP).
The State of Montana is expecting to be allotted $2.7 billion in funds from the ARP, and Yellowstone County is expecting to be allotted $31,283,142, the most of any county in the state.
The House in the Montana Legislature has passed HB-632, and the Senate is currently debating the bill, which directs how to spend almost $2 billion of the $2.7 billion. A focus of the state legislature is to build up Montana infrastructure. The legislature has proposed that $150 million be spent on infrastructure, including water and sewer system development.
While the state legislature is moving forward with HB-632, they are still anticipating more direction from the US Department of the Treasury before finalizing details.
But once the State has finalized their program there may not be a lot of time in which to prepare a project for application, said Arveschoug, a point with which Commissioners seemed to agree. Applications to the state may be due as soon as July 1 with the awards announced in mid-October.
One of Yellowstone County’s top priorities is the development of the TEDD (Targeted Economic Development District) which involves the development of an industrial park at the intersection of Johnson Lane and I-90. One of the basic steps in its development is to extend water and sewer lines from the Lockwood Water and Sewer District (LWSD) across Johnson Lane and into the TEDD district.
“It’s a chicken and egg problem,” said Thom MacLean, project manager for EDA, “This could be the catalyst.” A TEDD functions like a “tif” district in that infrastructure is funded from tax revenues in the increment above the level at which the district was created. But, the tax revenue only increases when development happens, and development doesn’t happen without some basic infrastructure.
The “sooner the better,” urged Dianne Lehm, EDA’s Director of Community Development, “This could be an opportunity to move the TEDD forward and to get it started.” Moving forward entails the engagement of an engineering firm to prepare preliminary plans, designs and cost estimates.
“It is an initial piece… get some ball park figures,” said Commissioner John Ostlund.
“This is such an important project,” said Commissioner Denis Pitman, “This screams everything, economic development.”
“We’ve been at this six years… a lot of people don’t realize how important this project is,” said Woody Woods, who heads the TEDD advisory board, appointed by County Commissioners, who have oversight of the TEDD. “It is a game changer that will bring a lot of business and a lot of jobs.”
The Manager of the Lockwood Water and Sewer District, Mike Ariztia, was also at the meeting and said that the effort has the full support of LWSD. “Anything we can do to affect the costs is a crucial step to move forward,” he said.
The TEDD was on hold for a year while an agreement was ironed out with the City of Billings regarding the treatment of sewage, but that issue was resolved and property owners are currently in the process of applying for inclusion in the Lockwood Water and Sewer District.
MacLean further pointed out that they are also under the gun to get the project underway before the Montana Department of Transportation begins building the Johnson Lane Interchange, which is expected to begin construction next year.
MacLean said that they are estimating that extending the utility lines will cost around $1 million, given that an engineering firm’s estimate in 2019 was $800,000.
Another project that might also be considered for ARP funding, said MacLean, is to build the TEDD access road further north, which would cost about $5 million.
HB-632 allocates money for water and wastewater projects, broadband infrastructure, school districts, economic stabilization grants for businesses, housing and mortgage assistance and a range of health and human services including COVID vaccines and testing, mental health and child care services.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury is overseeing the distribution of the ARP funds and is in the processing of writing rules.
Although subject to change, it is projected that some $339 million will be allotted to counties and cities in Montana, above and beyond the State’s $2.7 billion allotment.
Montana counties will receive a total of $207,282,912. Payments will be made in two phases – the first within 60 days of enactment of the law, and the second payment no earlier than 12 months after the first payment.
While Yellowstone County gets the largest allotment of any county in the state, Golden Valley County will receive the lowest, $159,228.
Among the other urban counties, Missoula will receive $23,195,684; Cascade $15,780,435; Flathead $29,132,534; Gallatin $22,193,770; Lewis & Clark $13,465,909; Silver Bow $6,771,549 and Ravalli $8,495, 904.
And for some other counties payments will be: Carbon $2,080,048; Stillwater $1,870,007, Fergus $2,143,079; Jefferson $2,370,188, Treasure $134,985;Rosebud $1,733,276; Richland $2,095,175; Bighorn $2,583,138; Custer $2,211,348. .
While the Montana State Legislature has authority of how to spend the $2.7 billion, other funds will be issued for specific purposes and directed to specific entities such as the community health centers. In Montana 14 centers will receive over $24 million for COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment. Receiving funds are: Billings (Riverstone, the county health department), Butte, Cut Bank, Great Falls, Hamilton, Hardin, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Libby, Livingston, Missoula and Shelby. Allotments range from less than $200,000 to more than $3 million.
Another $81 million of ARP funds will go to the state’s university system of which half may be used for student assistance.
Other funds will be distributed by the Department of the Treasury directly to entities such as school districts, agencies providing nutrition, airports and public transit systems.
According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government:
The total funds disbursed to cities and municipalities in Montana is $48 per capita, ranking the state 45th in the nation on a per capita basis.
Montana’s $2.7 billion allotment is $852 per capita, ranking it as the 10th highest among the states. The counties in the state are getting $194 per capita, 49th highest among the states.
New York City is getting the highest allotment per capita at $316.
New York ranks 3rd per capita for allotments to counties. Pennsylvania is first with $222 per capita. Illinois ranked 4th with $200 per capita.
Wyoming ranked in first place in per capita allotment to the State at $1,858.Vermont was 2nd with $1687 per capita. Alaska was 3rd with $1393.
In overall funding – state, counties and cities — California, New York, Texas, and Florida received the most. Montana was second to last, only Alaska got less.