Winter harsh on city water lines


City Public Utilities Director Al Kelm reported to the Miles City Council Tuesday that this winter has been particularly bad for the city’s water lines.

He said, “This has been a winter like we haven’t had, as far as frost goes. We’ve got frost measurements down to four and a half to five feet deep. We’ve had more homes freeze up their water lines this year than we’ve ever had. And since the first of the year, the guys have just finished up water break number seven this afternoon. 

“With the ground freezing, it shifts and pops the pipes. ... We’re not as bad as some of the communities,” Kelm said, explaining that they’ve received a request for any spare equipment for a community just over the Canadian border, because they have water main breaks. Miles City has just had some service lines and curb stops that have been freezing, versus more serious breaks in the mains.

In an interview Thursday Kelm said that in other winters, usually frost is three and a half to four feet deep, and there are maybe five water breaks in a winter.

Also at the council meeting: 

Council member Dwayne Andrews thanked Flood Administrator Samantha Malenovsky for putting together the recent flood control meeting that “was just as good as it could possibly be” and had a good turnout, he said.

Council member Roxanna Brush asked about the dike near the golf course. She had heard some people thought it wasn’t inspected enough by city crews. 

Public Works Director Scott Gray said it was an issue at one time, but the city has taken care of it. 

Extensive maintenance reports have been done on the area and the work that has been done there for the last three years. In May and June last year, the city hauled material from Southgate Meadows to the area for a straight week to build up that dike area. “It’s in a lot better condition than it was,” he said.

— Council member Ken Gardner commented he saw a lot of people going around the barricades on the dike during the recent high levels of the Tongue River.

Scott Gray said anytime the city puts up barricades, some people think “It’s always there for the other guys,” but for the most part people stayed away from them this time.

He added that a lot of times barricades get thrown in the river or driven over.

Mayor Butch Grenz said the city crews did “an outstanding job” keeping the water out of the city, “considering the Corps of Engineers saying we don’t have a dike.” The Corps does not recognize the structure as a certified dike.

— The city received a $10,000 grant for Miles City. This is the third leg of funding to hire a consultant for a tax increment finance district feasibility study to encourage economic development.

The grant was $5,750 less than requested, so an unnamed private foundation stepped in to fund the difference so that project can move forward, MIles City Preservation Officer Connie Muggli said.

The district boundaries have yet to be determined, but Muggli said it will encompass the entire downtown district.

In the end it will give the city a locally generated pool of revenue to use to encourage investment and business growth in Miles City. It includes new businesses or the expansion of existing businesses.

She said taxes may increase because of new building, but the tax rate won’t go up for 15 years.

— The council approved two Finance Committee recommendations: a water bill adjustment for a rental property, and approval of sending ambulance bills to collection.

— The council approved the Human Resource Committee’s recommendation to update the employment application.

— The first reading of Ordinance No. 1262 was unanimously passed, which makes the landlord ultimately responsible for the water and sewer charges. 

— The first reading of Ordinance No. 1263 was unanimously passed, increasing the reconnect fees for water service that were terminated based on failure to pay. Reconnecting during regular working hours has increased from $18 to $35. It is being increased up to $90 for Saturdays and $120 on Sundays. (Before it was set for $22 outside of normal working hours.)

Longtime employee Kelm said he doesn’t know if the the rates have ever been raised.

— The first reading of Ordinance No. 1264, updating new floodplain and floodway regulations, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation rules, was passed 7-1, with council member Mark Ahner voting against.

— Council passed Resolution No. 3670, which allows the city to enter into a landlord’s release and consent agreement with Stockman Bank of Sidney. The agreement would allow the bank to assume the duties of a tenant in the Industrial Site to protect the improvements on the property if the tenant should default on a lease and the bank has an interest on the property. 

— Resolution No. 3671 amends the budget to include unanticipated revenue for the city historic preservation fund.

— February claims were approved.