News Feature | April 2, 2014

Tiny Town Can't Pay Repair Bills, State Steps In

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

Money-reg

Officials in a small Montana town had an insurmountable infrastructure problem on their hands. 

At $10,666 per person, the repair bill for the water system in Plevna, MT, "was more than the town of 150 could swallow," according to the Billings Gazette

The problem had plagued the town for years. "The southeast Montana community draws its water from an underground cistern, which cracked near the top several years ago. Plevna made do by keeping the water level below the cistern’s crack, which meant Plevna’s cup was pretty much half full," the report said. 

“We always figured it leaked water if we filled it about two-thirds full,” Mayor Willie Benner said in the report. “It’s always been that way since I’ve been here, which is decades. We got by except what happened in summertime when people started watering their lawns.”

But just getting by is not cutting it anymore. The town is failing to store enough water to ensure it can fight fires, the report said. 

Now that is poised to change. Against all odds, the tiny town may become an infrastructure funding success story. Money is pouring into Plevna from a variety of sources. 

"Fallon County gave the community $1 million for the first phase of the project and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation added $100, 000," the report said. 

The state is sending money, too. "Governor Steve Bullock and Department of Commerce Director Meg O’Leary announced a grant of $500,000 to be awarded through the Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP) to the Town of Plevna," the Fallon County Times reported

Plevna is ready to begin repairs. 

"The town plans to start construction on a new water tower early this summer, with some new water lines, as well. The first phase of the project will cost $1.6 million with more work to come," the Gazette reported.

Plevna is not the only town in Montana sorely in need of repairs. 

The state has reported $822 million in drinking water infrastructure needs required over the next two decades, according to an infrastructure report card compiled by the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

The state has also reported $587 million in wastewater needs over the same time period. 

Image credit: "Money," © 2012 Cooperweb, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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