By Brandon Walker EBS COMMUNITY EDITOR
BIG SKY – As the looming May 5 vote for a 1 percent increase in resort tax approaches, two Bozeman-based engineering groups recently presented the findings of a feasibility study regarding the financial and environmental impact of a possible canyon water and sewer district.
The Gallatin River Task Force contracted the study, funding research by engineering firms WGM Group and AE2S, with resort tax dollars.
On the evening of March 5 at Buck’s T-4 Lodge, representatives Mace Mangold of WGM Group, and Scott Buecker from AE2S, presented two different avenues that the theoretical canyon water and sewer district could take. The glaring difference between the two was from a cost standpoint.
The first scenario, entitled ‘Go it alone’ in Buecker and Mangold’s presentation, detailed the formation of the new district with no assistance or collaboration with the existing Big Sky County Water and Sewer District. In this instance, the new district would not benefit from the $12 million allocated to the construction of a lift station, which would be funded by the proposed resort tax increase, if passed. Instead, that cost, as well as all other necessary expenditures, would fall onto the shoulders of canyon district homeowners alone.
The second scenario, entitled ‘Co-Solution’ in the presentation, covered how everything could unfold if the new district worked in collaboration with the BSCWSD. In addition to covering the $12 million lift station price tag, a portion of the financial load would also be dispersed between BSCWSD clients as well as those in the new canyon district.
In total, if the proposed canyon water and sewer district were to proceed without the assistance of BSCWSD, it would be saddled with a nearly $30 million bill, according to the Buecker and Mangold’s presentation. That number is just shy of a $3 million difference in total cost, between the more expensive ‘Go it alone’ scenario and the ‘Co-Solution’ scenario, which totals $26.2 million. Aside from the larger overall price tag, if the new canyon district didn’t work in conjunction with BSCWSD, they would also miss out on benefitting from the $12 million dollars set aside for the aforementioned lift station, if the resort tax increase passes.
“I think, in a traditional setting where resort tax isn’t available, these projects would stall in the feasibility phase, and they wouldn’t move forward,” Mangold said. “In the resort tax setting, they’re already showing support with this $12 million option to voters. I sense they are behind this effort in terms of…looking to motivate it.”
Currently, Mangold said the general public in the canyon is tasked with the process of the formation of their own water and sewer district. “There’s no entity right now to steer it. It has to be a general public within this potential service area,” Mangold said.