Kalispell eyes $32.6M in wastewater facility upgrades

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An updated wastewater facility plan for the city of Kalispell that anticipates roughly $32.6 million in improvements over the next five years was the focus of the Kalispell City Council’s July 8 work session.

The Public Works Department presented a comprehensive document detailing their findings on the existing system and plans for the next 20 years. The document took a year and half to prepare, according to Public Works Director Susie Turner.

“It’s really important to understand our existing system,” Turner said. To do so, she said they did a complete inventory of Kalispell’s wastewater system. They took into account the city’s growth, considerations of inflow and infiltration into the sewer system and the state of the existing infrastructure. They asked questions such as “where is our wastewater coming from?” and “who produces how much wastewater?”

The analysis focused on particular system challenges such as the city’s substantial growth trend and the age of the pipes, some of which were installed 80 years ago.

“These are challenges that all cities and municipalities face,” Turner said.

“Proactively addressing system challenges is critical to ensure sustainable system operations,” according to the plan update. Part of proactively addressing these challenges involves analyzing the potential risk that they pose for Kalispell residents and businesses. The Public Works Department developed a risk assessment of the city’s collection system to achieve a range of objectives for the city, including prioritizing future improvements and informing investments into city infrastructure.

Turner was pleased to report that they found 94% of Kalispell’s infrastructure to be “in really great shape.” She said that even the categories in the assessment that merited a “catastrophic” label only indicated that the city should be aware of those portions and address those capital projects sooner than others.

“Essentially we’re finding weak points in our system,” Turner said, and the next step is to start capital projects to address them.

In addition to assessing the current state of Kalispell’s sewer system, the update focuses on proactive planning for the next 20 years, with growth periods broken down into short-term, near-term and long-term timeframes. The short term is considered the next five years, the near term is considered the following 10-year period and the long term is designated as beyond the next 15 years.

They have currently lined up 25 short-term capital improvement projects with an estimated total cost of $32.6 million. Most of the capital projects already were anticipated, but the update identified three additional construction projects.

“Facility plans are dynamic plans,” Turner stressed. “They set a baseline and start the process [of addressing the city’s infrastructure needs].”

The next council work session will take place at 7 p.m. July 22 in the City Council Chambers, 201 First Ave. E.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459

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