Water Rates & Supply Concern Ratepayers

by Evelyn Pyburn

The proposed $140 million West End Reservoirs and Water Plant are still in the works for the City of Billings, even though the time line has been extended because of increasing costs.

Plans were brought up-to-date last week by Billings Deputy Director of Public Works Jennifer Duray in an informational meeting with board members of the Heights Water District to explain the process for setting water rates.

The plan was that the West End Reservoir plant would be completed by 2024 – a goal about which Duray is now dubious. It is more likely to be 2025, she said.  City officials found it necessary to curtail the proposed project and to push plans back because of increasing costs. “Inflation is killing us,” said Duray. 

Once started, construction is expected to take about two and a half years.

Part of the delay involves the hope of getting a $50 million BRIC grant from FEMA, which would be good news for both city and district ratepayers, said Duray. The city applied once before for the grant and failed to get it, but they see more promise this time around.

To understand the purpose and impact of the proposed new plant was one of the reasons for the meeting which was attended by two Heights Water District Board members, Pam Ellis and Laura Drager. Questions about how it pertains to the Heights Water District and whether district ratepayers might be called upon to pay for something that does not serve them are among numerous points of contention that have been expressed by some district ratepayers.

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