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Missoula County to study new fee rates for Lolo water and sewer as growth pressure mounts

A consultant hired by Missoula County will conduct a fee analysis for the Lolo water and wastewater utilities as it looks for ways to cover the cost of meeting the demands current and future growth.

Shane Stack, the county’s director of public works, said Lolo’s water and wastewater utilities are reaching their capacity and the rates and fees that support the utility haven’t been adjusted in years.

The $30,000 contract with HDR Inc. will take steps in that direction.

“Looking at the potential for improving both of those systems is going to cost quite a bit of money,” Stack said. “We’ve got to reassess those fees to make sure we have the funding to make the improvements to accommodate all the users that would like to be on the system, as well as the current users.”

Missoula County in January approved a plan to improve Lolo’s water system and intended to apply for a competitive grant through the American Rescue Plan. While the outcome of that application hasn’t been announced, Stack said the county “was searching for other funding mechanisms” beyond the fee structure, though he didn’t mention ARPA.

Reports have identified pressing needs related to aging infrastructure and growth and development within the Lolo system. The HRD contract will analyze the planned capital cost of expanding the water and sewer utilities.

That includes estimated long-term borrowing and debt service requirements. Stack said it will also help determine adequate connection fees to cover costs and provide ways to implement changes to the current fee structure.

“The scope of the work is to do a fee analysis,” Stack said. “We’re starting to see some growth and a lot of requests come in from different developers. We’re going to come up against our capacity for both sewer and water.”