Recap given on museum basement decision


Submitted by the Prairie County Board of Commissioners

      This column addresses to the community of Prairie County to clarify the Board of Prairie County Commissioners decision to attempt to correct the Museum’s water issue in the basement by converting the basement to a crawl space.
      The water issue in the basement of the old State Bank of Terry building that is now the county museum has been going on for years.  There are multiple sump pumps, that at certain times of the year, pump almost continually.  Other times of the year, the pumps seem to not have to work so hard.
     The Town of Terry sits over a huge aquifer that is somewhat shallow.  The Museum building is only one of many buildings with basements in the Town of Terry that have water issues.  Furthermore, the museum building basement is very difficult to use for storage due to the continual water problem and not being very accessible, like all old buildings.
   In the summer of 2013,  Jason Rittal from Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation (EPEDC) wrote an emergency grant to mitigate the water problem in the basement of the museum.  EPEDC serves five counties in eastern Montana.  They are Prairie, Dawson, Wibaux, Carter, and Fallon.  Mr. Rittal is fantastic at what he does and was successful in getting $45,310 TIIP grant for the museum water mitigation.  It did not, however, cover the entire project cost.  The county and museum had cost share and the amount of affordable dollars available had to be taken into consideration.  The county museum agreed to invest $25,000 into project.  Prairie County will invest $10,000 in kind.  Total project cost for basement is $80,310 and sidewalk CTEP project of $133,096.  This is a total of $213,406.
     Options looked at were pretty broad.  They were from plumbing into the storm sewer system, upgrading sump pumps, trying to seal walls and floors, back filling basement and converting basement to crawl space, or saving basement.
     The museum board and the commissioners had to look at three issues when selecting option:

1.  Can we afford it?

2.  Will it solve the problem long term?

3.  Will it not negatively affect our $133,096 sidewalk project at the museum? 

     On July 22, 2013 the commissioners and museum board met at a regularly scheduled meeting.  Great West Engineering had developed options and estimated costs for the water mitigation of the basement.  The options were discussed.  When taking into consideration cost, how it would affect other investments, and hopefully a long term fix, and the cost share and in kind services from the museum and county; both the museum board and the board of county commissioners concluded that backfilling basement to crawl space depth to addressed the 3 issues best with the dollars available.
     Throughout the fall and winter of 2013/2014 we heard nothing from the community or the museum.  It wasn’t until the start of the summer in 2014 that we hear concerns about our selected option and effort to change scope of work.  We are within 6 weeks of final engineering and 2 months from bid letting when this started.  This is not the way to do business.  It is not fair the engineers.  It is not fair to the county.  It is not fair to Eastern Montana Economic Development Corporation.  It threatens our creditability with associates and their creditability.
    And to show, that it is just not just the Prairie County Board of Commissioners with concerns, please read on.  The Eastern Montana Economic Development Corporation has received $67,035 in grants for the Museum.  At the last Economic Development meeting, the board of directors unanimously voted not to do business in the future with the Prairie County Museum mostly due to the museum board’s second guessing and interference.

NOTE: The Board of Prairie County Commissioners includes: Todd Devlin, Ann Marie Davis and Deanna Bockness.

Published August 6, 2014

Article Type: 
Guest Opinion

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