County continues work on projects around Ennis

The Board of Madison County Commissioners ended 2013 with discussions about three projects around Ennis continuing or beginning in 2014. Those projects include the Moore’s Creek flood mitigation project, the feasibility study and survey of Jack Creek Road and a Varney Bridge update and grant application.

Great West Engineering’s Jeremiah Theys was on hand at the Dec. 31 commissioners meeting to update the board on the projects’ next steps.

Moore’s Creek

“We are ready to move forward on this one,” Theys said of Moore’s Creek, which needs eight culverts replaced throughout Ennis. “We are shooting for the summer or fall of 2014 to begin. That means a lot of work in a really short amount of time.”

According to Theys, the completed project will cost nearly $1 million. So far, there is $850,000 available, and even though bids have not come in with concrete final prices Theys said the county still needs to acquire the remaining $150,000. He added that the design phase just started and the project will not go out to bid for several months.

“Installation of the culverts will be bid out to a qualified contractor,” Theys said.

The commissioners and Theys said they hoped the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) would be able to contribute those funds since two of the culverts being replaced must meet MDT standards, although the agency does not always contribute money to projects like this one.

The total construction cost including engineering is $997,632, according to Theys. He said a grant from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation covers $100,000 of that cost and a FEMA grant contributes the bulk of the current funds at $748,224. Madison County has contributed $149,408 to the project.

Manpower from county or city crews could help save money, Theys said. The commissioners and Ennis public works director Kelly Elser said that was a possibility they would consider. Besides replacing the culverts, work on the project would also include cleaning up areas surrounding the creek and culverts in order to prevent and minimize obstructions that increase the possibility of flooding.

Jack Creek Road

Theys and the commissioners met with stakeholders from Ennis and Big Sky to discuss an updated feasibility study and survey of Jack Creek Road. A feasibility study was conducted in 2007. That feasibility study collected data in six categories-sight distance, geometry, road width, drainage, gravel layer and ride quality-and information from the three-mile stretch starting at the Jack Creek Bench Road and ending at the Moonlight Basin gate.

Theys and Great West developed three options for the county in the study. The first was simply to clear away brush and trees and add drainage culverts. Option two included all of option one as well as some excavation of road curves, stabilization of the streambank, replacement of the road base and the establishment of roadside ditches. The third and final option called for the road to be widened and rebuilt. Four bridges were marked for replacement in the option too. This option also called for the county to purchase land for a right-of-way or to negotiate with landowners to obtain the proper easments.

Landowners and homeowners, as well as some people travelling to Moonlight Basin or Big Sky Resort, drive the narrow, two-lane road throughout the year. The commissioners said some people would like to see the road opened up for more local use and the road size increased to aid emergency personnel.

“There is currently no way to get people out and emergency vehicles in if there was incident,” commissioner Jim Hart said.

Included in the scope of work for the survey is the use of cadastral photos and GIS overlay for a graphic depiction of the road, property boundaries and other aspects of the road. Theys said the next steps are up to the county.

“To improve Jack Creek Road to county standards would take several million dollars and is not feasible for the county at this time,” Theys said. “Unless they secure a grant to assist, it probably won’t happen.” He added that there are also environmental issues that would need to be evaluated as well as the connection through Moonlight Basin.

Varney Bridge

The commissioners gave Theys approval to begin the Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP) application process for Varney Bridge. He said the application deadline is tentatively set for May 1. If awarded, the county would have two years to use the money to replace the bridge and construction would be done between 2017 and 2018. In total, the project will cost $4 million.

“TSEP grants are ranked over the summer and award recommendations are given to the legislature. Funding approval won’t happen until a bill is passed through the next legislative cycle,” Theys said. The Blaine Springs Bridge project received $700,000 from a TSEP grant.

“It could be closed by then,” Hart said of the old bridge that has a questionable weight limit as well as many years of wear and tear.

The nearby Blaine Springs Bridge will undergo reconstruction first in 2016 using previously awarded TSEP funds.

“We need to get it right,” Theys said of Blaine Springs. “We will use it as a template for Varney.”

According to Theys, design has not started on the Varney Bridge and will not commence until funding is secured.

Schulz said he sees both projects as beneficial for emergency access, future development and other county operations.

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