County approves $1.1 million contract for water, sewer project at Missoula fairgrounds

Before the Western Montana Fair kicks off this year, the property’s collection of historic buildings will be served by an upgraded water main, with new fire hydrants handy.

Missoula County commissioners on Wednesday approved a $1.1 million contract with Jackson Contractor Group to oversee the construction of sewer and water mains at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

The project, set for the coming weeks, marks the first of several phases of work aimed at renovating and redeveloping the property.

“The work is for sewer and water – to fully sewer and water the entire fairgrounds,” said fairgrounds director Emily Brock Bentley. “We plan on getting the first main in to the historic building group before the fair, to get fire hydrants in before the fair.”

The fairgrounds escaped a close call last year when a fire broke out in 4-H Cafe. The fire was quickly doused by volunteers and no one was hurt, though the event punctuated the need for modern infrastructure improvements.

Bentley said the water and sewer lines will be operated by city services, including Missoula Water.

“Currently, the fairgrounds acts as one big service line, and there’s a meter at South Avenue,” Bentley said. “We’re going to move away from that and have it be part of the municipal sewer and water system. The city will own the utilities and have easements where the utilities are.”

Back in March, commissioners adopted a resolution stating their intent to create a special district for the county fairgrounds. That enabled the county to bond roughly $19 million to begin improvements and pay it back over 20 years using funds generated by three mills levied by commissioners last year.

The $1.1 million contract approved on Wednesday will be repaid using a portion of those funds, Bentley said. Jackson will serve as the construction manager and Western Excavating will do the work.

“This is being paid for with state revolving loan funds,” Bentley said. “The three mills will go to debt service to the state revolving loan fund. The advantage of the state revolving loan fund is that it’s a 2.5 percent interest rate, so it’s very good.”