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Lewis and Clark County earmarks $50K in ARPA funds for community projects

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Helena Youth Homes

The Margaret Stuart Youth Home serves over 50 teens in crisis each year. 

The Lewis and Clark County Board of County Commissioners approved the use of about $50,000 worth of American Rescue Plan Act relief funds on preliminary reports for projects at the Margaret Stuart Youth Home in Helena and a wastewater system in Craig. 

The youth home, an eight-bed group home licensed to provide short-term crisis intervention placements and long-term group care for youth located at 200 Miller St. in Helena, received $35,000 of the county's direct allocation of ARPA funds from the federal government during Tuesday's meeting.

The money will be spent on a preliminary architectural report on the building, which according to a staff report is in need of "numerous safety, structural, and interior updates to maintain its use as a licensed group home for youth in our community."

Lewis and Clark County owns the building, and the youth home is run by a western Montana nonprofit organization called Youth Homes.

The staff report details needed repairs to the 1989 facility's roof, gutters, windows, fire system and HVAC system.

A preliminary architectural report, or PAR, conducted by a professional architect, will provide a description of the current building conditions and lay out a course of action and estimated budget for solving the identified problems.

The report is expected as early as this summer.

"We want to make the home a place where the kids know they're valued by the community," Margaret Stuart Youth Home Program Director Colleen Rivers said Tuesday.

Craig wastewater system 

The commission approved Thursday the spending of $15,000 of its minimum allocation ARPA funds from the state government, a separate pot of ARPA aid from the direct allocation money, on a preliminary engineering report to be conducted on the Craig County Water-Sewer District's wastewater system.

The district's board president Chris Goodman told the commissioners the recently installed wastewater treatment system and plant in Craig, the debt obligations for which required a voter-approved increase in the area's resort tax last November and may require an additional hike, has not functioned as well as expected.

"A lot has gone on," Goodman said. "The environmental impact of this sewer system has been very great."

The plant is relatively new. Goodman called it the first of its kind in the state. He said the existing infrastructure deficiencies in the community paired with a complicated new wastewater plant pose an expensive problem for the town of about 40 people.

"That's the real issue right now, fixing all these problems and the cost for having plant operators come out, overtime and all that, it has nearly bankrupt us," Goodman said. "Even with the resort tax, we're looking at raising rates now because we just don't have enough money to run this plant the way it is right now."

The district sought and received $20,000 of the county's direct allocation ARPA funds in September for a technical memorandum and system health check.

Thursday's approval will pay for the preliminary report on a related project intended to get properties in the area hooked into the system, allowing sewage to be pumped directly to the plant.

Previous attempts at manually pumping the gray water from homes to the lift stations were unsuccessful and resulted in raw sewage spilling into the streets.

Lewis and Clark County has earmarked about $400,000 in ARPA relief for water and sewer projects to date.

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Local Government and Crime Reporter

Nolan Lister is a reporter at the Helena Independent Record with an emphasis on local government and crime.

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