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Water resource recovery facility expansion update

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An early rendering of the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District Water Resource Recovery Facility upgrade. The rendering depicts the new membrane bio reactor plant (left) next to the existing sequencing batch reaction plant (right). PHOTO COURTESY OF AE2S & 45 ARCHITECTURE

By Brandon Walker EBS LOCAL EDITOR

BIG SKY – At the April 16 Water Resource Recovery Facility expansion meeting, the current rendering of the proposed Big Sky County Water and Sewer District WRRF plant expansion was presented via a pre-recorded video by Tanner Skelton, the project manager of the architectural team for 45 Architecture, and recapped by Scott Jungwirth, a project engineer for AE2S Engineering. 

In the pre-recorded video, Skelton detailed that the membrane bio reactor’s design drew inspiration from grain elevators that can be found throughout Montana. 

The MBR plant could be completed in two separate phases and located just to the west of the current sequencing batch reaction plant. The first phase would allow the BSCWSD to keep pace with the continued development throughout Big Sky, providing additional single family equivalents to the current thinning total, while a second phase could be implemented in the future when necessary. 

“The district doesn’t need all that capacity right now,” said AE2S engineer, Scott Buecker. “When you overbuild a treatment plant, it can be as bad as under building a treatment plant because you have a lot of facilities there that aren’t necessary and so you’re mothballing them, trying to figure out how to preserve them.”

Referring to the timeline of events Jungwirth said that a final design would likely be completed in September of 2020, followed by the bidding process in October. Construction would then begin by the end of the year and continue through mid-2022.

Jungwirth confirmed that the project cost remains around $35 million even as the economy flexes due to COVID-19. If the 1 percent resort tax increase vote passes, 60 percent, or up to $27 million, of the $35 million WRRF expansion would be covered by resort tax revenue. 

“That’s still approximately where we are. It depends on the cost of concrete and the construction economy, which is also anybody’s guess right now with COVID” Bucker said. He added that the plan is to update the project’s estimated cost at least twice before the bidding process were to occur, taking into account other area bids such as the Big Sky Community Organization’s Community Center project. “So, if you look at the remaining SFE’s on the books, if [the BSCWSD] grew at the rate they were growing before COVID, we need this plant online in 2022,” he said.

If passed, the 1 percent resort tax increase would go into effect starting July 1 of this year, and cover 100 percent, or $12 million, for the construction of a lift station, force main and a disposal return pipe to the canyon area. The money would be made available for the aforementioned project, but wouldn’t proceed until the canyon area has formed their own water and sewer district.

The agreement between the Big Sky Resort Tax Area District board and the BSCWSD board also allocates 500 SFE’s for workforce housing to help address the community’s employee housing shortage.

Ballots were mailed to registered voters within the BSCWSD boundary on April 17. Voters are encouraged to postmark their returning ballots by April 28 to accommodate for shipping time, or drop them off at the Gallatin County Courthouse by 8 p.m. on May 5.

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