Water issues focus of Sheridan council
Town council trying to resolve supply problems
SHERIDAN – Despite all the water coming off the mountains from snowpack and abundant spring rainfall, just one of Sheridan’s five town water wells is producing water. As a result, water projects were front and center on the Sheridan town council’s June 12 meeting.
The council is looking at several interconnected efforts to resolve the town’s water woes:
One focus is a new well.
The council will apply for a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant to drill a new well. This is an emergency grant, for natural disasters, such as the earthquake that is believed to have shut down the four other town wells.
The town has drilled a test well on Carey Lane and the grant – if the town can get it -- would provide additional funding to acquire new water sources.
Meanwhile, the town council also discussed a related preliminary engineering report (PER) that established town priorities, and additional water projects.
According to Mayor Bob Stump, the state’s Department of Commerce asked the town for a list of priorities pertaining to water, sewer and bridge projects, following the state’s rescinding the town’s $625,000 Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP) grant in 2017, due to a statewide budget crunch.
After some consideration, the council agreed its priorities were:
1. A new well.
2. Replace Water Street main, lines, hydrants.
3. Replace Beaver Lane hydrants.
4. Replace miscellaneous hydrants across town.
5. Install a cage ladder at the water tower.
The council is looking into USDA Rural Development grants and a State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan to fund work directed towards accomplishing these priorities.
The state legislature established two SRF loan programs - one for water pollution control projects, another for drinking water projects – to provide low interest rate loans for eligible communities. The state programs are in turn funded with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants and a 20 percent state bond match.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administers the program and the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) makes the loans.
Stump said there is the likelihood of the state returning the $625,000 TSEP money to Sheridan.
“We’re along for the ride,” he said. “We’ve got a long shopping list, and some of this should get taken care of.”
Meanwhile, however, Sheirdan had a $60,000 bill owed to Great West Engineering, of Helena, to cover what Stump called a preliminary bid package, which included surveys and specifications for ways to improve the town’s water distribution system. This work was done prior to the TSEP grant being yanked back.
When the town’s wells – like the TSEP grant – dried up, this effort was put on hold. The council approved a payment for this on Tuesday evening.
Also water-related, councilman Dan Durham saw Sheridan’s reduced water supply as an opportunity to educate residents on water conservation measures.
Abbott said he sees lots of water being used to irrigate lawns. (Sheridan does have watering restrictions in place, due to the reduced supply of water.)
Too much water encourages grass plants to grow shallow roots, and die quicker than deeply-rooted grass plants.
Abbott said grass does just fine on 1 inch of water per week – measure this by placing empty tuna cans in the yard where you’re watering and measure the amount of water in the can.
Abbot suggested creating a water conservation brochure – there would be lots of material from California and Arizona on water conservation – to help residents conserve the reduced supply available.
“This is something to do,” said Stump.
In other business, the council discussed alcohol in the town park.
Stump said he’d found a garbage can overflowing with empty beer cans in the park recently and wondered about groups who want to bring their own bottles to the park. Stump said the town has no insurance for liability if something happens with this. When Chick’s Bar holds events in Sheridan, they do have liability insurance that comes with their liquor license.
He urged council to come up with a plan for no BYOB in the park.
“We must be so careful with alcohol involved,” Stump said. “(A plan) has to be an honor system.”
Stump suggested those who want alcohol will have to get it from a vendor on site.
Stump said prohibiting alcohol from entering the park’s two entrances at a certain point seemed like the way to go.
Also, the council, on a motion by Durham and councilman Mike Walter, approved shifting $13,000 already in the town’s budget to the fire department’s working budget, to be directed towards the purchase of a new fire engine.
Finally, the council approved a new board member to fill a vacancy.
Two people had applied for the position, Jennifer Martin and Emilie Sayler.
Stump noted that the position would be an 18 month slot, to fill the vacancy until June of 2020, then the person chosen could run for the office, if they wanted to.
On a motion by Durham and Walter, Sayler was chosen to become the new council member.
“It is hard to choose, they’re both viable candidates,” said Walter.
Stump noted the overall lack of interest in serving on council. He said five people have come and gone on council in the last three years, and before that there was a long-standing council of board members who had served 14 years, and a 12-year mayor veteran.
Sayler’s position on the council will be formally finalized at the July 9 meeting.