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Libby secures $600k community development block grant

by DERRICK PERKINS
Editor | January 11, 2022 7:00 AM

Officials announced Jan. 4 that Libby secured a $600,000 grant to overhaul the municipal treatment plant’s control system and upgrade the city’s water infrastructure.

The money comes from a community development block grant via the state Department of Commerce. Officials — mainly City Engineer Mike Fraser and Tina Oliphant of the Kootenai River Development Council — scrambled for the dollars this past fall after learning the municipality remained eligible for the funding.

“That was the one we worked so hard in October to get,” said Mayor Peggy Williams while announcing the incoming dollars last week. “We’re really pleased. We appreciate [Oliphant] and [Fraser] and the effort they put into it.”

City Administrator Samuel Sikes said the project would see the treatment plant’s control system replaced. The current system dates back to the 1980s and has increasingly proven problematic. Not the least because replacement parts now impossible to come by, he said.

“If you go down there, you would laugh,” Sikes said. “It’s like an ’80s movie set with little flashing lights and a map that’s not to scale.”

In the not-too-distant past, officials found a similar system at an old lumber mill, which they bought to scavenge for spare parts, Sikes recalled.

“There are no more of those; there are no more spare parts,” he said.

A portion of the grant also would cover the replacement of three sections of water main, about a block in length each. Upgrading the three lines, which currently are on the smaller side, would improve flow, Sikes said.

The grant does come with a match requirement. When officials opted to go ahead with the application in October they noted that the city’s share would be covered with another $464,000 grant and a $125,000 renewable resource grant.

Sikes hoped to put the project out to bid within the next couple of months.