The Town of Sheridan will not receive a Treasure Statement Endowment Program grant for upgrades to the town water system this year.
Mayor Bob Stump reported during the Sheridan council meeting Monday that the Montana Legislature is funding only the top 15 priority-ranked projects on the TSEP list this year. The Sheridan water project was ranked number 18 and will not be funded.
“We were granted a Treasure Statement Endowment Program grant for $625,000 by the last legislature,” said Stump. “Due to the budget crunch within the State of Montana, approximately half of the TSEP grant money was removed from the program. We were ranked number 18, the cut-off was about the top 15 projects. At least for right now, we’ve lost our funding – we’ve lost our grant for $625,000.”
Sarah Robbins, consultant with Rural and Tribal Environmental Solutions, told council state funding cuts are continuing. “It seems like more and more are getting cut everyday,” she said. “Approximately half of it was taken out. Normally, it’s $50 million that gets spread throughout the state in the TSEP program. That was down to $30 million in the spring legislative session, and it’s been cut even further. They don’t know, right now, if those who were to receive funding, like the Town of Sheridan, will have to re-apply. It’s uncertain if you will have to re-apply and be competitive with everybody else again, or if those 10 or so that got cut will be at the top of the list.”
Unrelated to the TSEP grant, Stump said the town would pursue a State Revolving Fund loan at 2.5 percent interest to fund the drilling of a new well for the town water supply. The town is currently relying on two wells due to the failure of a third well, and Stump said he is working with engineers to acquire a good well site. Acquisition of an SRF loan will require a rate increase, the mayor reported.
Stump reported the recent meter-reader device failure caused the town to issue estimated water bills, and any customer who was over-charged would receive a credit on their next bill.
Heidi Giem, certified public accountant with Amatics CPA Group, presented the town’s annual audit report. The report indicated total town assets at more than $7 million. Giem reported no major negative findings, but reported a significant deficiency with the town’s segregation of financial duties. The CPA said many small towns with a small administrative staff receive the same demerit every year.
Sheriff Roger Thompson reported a good month for the town and county with no serious criminal activity. “The last four weeks have actually been pretty good around the whole county,” he said. “Some domestic things are starting to pick up but, for the most part, things are going pretty well.”
The sheriff reported his officers had responded to some minor incidents in Sheridan, including a bar fight, a hit-and-run with damage to a phone junction box, a fireworks complaint, a squatter at a motel, an abandoned vehicle, and vandalism of a plaque.
“We had a potential fight at one of the bars,” said Thompson. “By the time we arrived, both men had left, which is a good idea. If you’re going to fight, you ought to leave before the police arrive. That’s always a good thing.”
New Sheridan fire chief Ben Hitchcock reported the department is in need of a new fire truck. Hitchcock told council the VFD’s 1998 model fire engine is experiencing numerous mechanical issues with repairs estimated between $15,000 to $25,000. The chief said he had located an operational 2001 Pierce fire engine with a six-man cab in Chicago for $15,000. Hitchcock is investigating grants to pay for the replacement truck.
The fire chief said he implemented the use of “run cards,” which establish procedures for dispatching vehicles for certain types of calls. The chief said the cards would reduce the number of unnecessary vehicle runs.
Hitchcock reported two new members had joined the VFD in the last month, bringing the department’s total membership to 13, including 10 firefighters and three junior firefighters.
The next regular Sheridan council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at the town offices.