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Troy treading water on project

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| January 26, 2009 11:00 PM

Troy Mayor Jim Hammons took a discouraging trip to Helena two weeks ago to compete for grants to replace his community’s aging water system.

“Overall, we were down the line from getting picked, so I went over there to move us up the ladder,” Hammons said last week. “They funded the first phase, knowing it was a three-phase project, but we still didn’t score as high (as others).”

Hammons testified to a Senate subcommittee on the Community Transportation Enhancement Program grant, but has also applied for all eligible grants.

The Troy water project is not even through the first phase because, according to city treasurer Sandy Johnson, more than one-third of the first phase’s $3.35 million budget went toward installing meters, an unforeseen expenditure.

“In order to receive federal money, we had to show them that we would monitor the system,” Hammons said. “That was a requirement.”

The city has been working on the project since 2000, but it didn’t break ground until 2007 after Troy took out a $1.89 million loan and received $1.46 million in grants.

There is no hope of continuing the project unless grant money emerges as Troy has maxed out the amount it can borrow, Hammons said.

Residents are already paying nearly double the target rate for sewer and water since taking on the current loan, a consequence Hammons said was expected.

“There’s no way we can have anymore financial debt,” he said. “That’s why I went to Helena to testify … along with every other town in Montana.”

In 2007 three water mains were upgraded, replacing more than 19,000 feet of pipe in an effort to repair the worst of the city’s water leaks. A new 187,000-gallon water tank was installed and the old tank was recoated.

“We’re still pumping more water in the ground than we’re using,” Hammons said. “The water is still not fixed. They should have kept us going (financially).”

While Hammons does not foresee Troy receiving any regular state grants, he remains optimistic that somehow the city will get the funds.

“If the stimulus package goes through, hopefully more money will trickle into the state and to us,” Hammons said.