Missoula City Council Public Works Committee Minutes

ZOOM Webinar
Members present:
  • Stacie Anderson,
  • Mirtha Becerra (chair),
  • John P. Contos,
  • Heather Harp,
  • Jordan Hess,
  • Gwen Jones,
  • Julie Merritt,
  • Jesse Ramos,
  • Amber Sherrill,
  • Sandra Vasecka,
  • Bryan von Lossberg,
  • and Heidi West




​​​​​​​​The minutes were approved as submitted.



Ross Mollenhauer Interim Deputy Public Works Director- Utilities

The Grant Creek Sewer Collection Improvement Project is a sewer bypass project on West Broadway near Expressway. The project will take out the last lift station at the downstream end of a series of lift stations serving sewer to the Y area. In the Wastewater Facility Plan, this station was identified as reaching capacity, and the plan recommended increasing the capacity.  The engineers determined the best option was to eliminate the pump lift station and turn it into a gravity system. The process will bore under Grant Creek, the railroad tracks, and Broadway. 

The direct cost of the gravity system is more expensive than rehabbing the pump station. However, the electrical and operational costs of running a lift station are higher. When looking at the costs, the gravity system is the best option. Knife River won the bid through a bidding process and will be doing construction in phases.

Mr. Hess asked about the operational savings and benefits. Mr. Mollenhauer explained that the gravity system is less likely to have breakdowns saving the staff time. He also added that pumping water or wastewater is a significant electrical bill for the city. 

Ms. Merritt asked about the risks to Grant Creek. Mr. Mollenhauer said they are working with all agencies and getting the necessary permits. It will go deep about 5 feet, and Grant Creek will not be at any risk of sewer spills. There is an existing pressurized line under Grant Creek now so this will improve that line having a gravity line.

Ms. Harp commented that the cost more than the engineering estimate. Mr. Mollenhauer said that material costs were higher than anticipated.

  • Moved by:Jordan Hess

    Award the bid for construction services to the Grant Creek Sewer Collection Improvement Project to Knife River for an amount not to exceed $932,025.00 and authorize the return of bid bonds.

    AYES: (11)Stacie Anderson, Mirtha Becerra, John Contos, Heather Harp, Jordan Hess, Gwen Jones, Julie Merritt, Jesse Ramos, Sandra Vasecka, Bryan von Lossberg, and Heidi West
    ABSTAIN: (1)Amber Sherrill
    Vote results:Approved (11 to 0)

Logan McInnis Engineering Manager for Public Works and Mobility,

These plans have already been before the City Council but in order to qualify for the State Revolving Funds (SRF), the language needs to be changed. 

  • Moved by:Julie Merritt

    Adopt a resolution of the Missoula City Council to adopt the 2018 Water System Master Plan, the 2019 Wastewater Facility Plan, and the 2018 Storm Water Facility and Operations Plan Project to secure State Revolving Fund (SRF) loans from the State of Montana for City of Missoula Utility Capital Improvement Projects.

    AYES: (12)Stacie Anderson, Mirtha Becerra, John Contos, Heather Harp, Jordan Hess, Gwen Jones, Julie Merritt, Jesse Ramos, Amber Sherrill, Sandra Vasecka, Bryan von Lossberg, and Heidi West
    Vote results:Approved (12 to 0)

Troy Monroe City Engineer for Development Review and Inspections presenting,

The changes to chapter 12.24 will allow 20 different excavation permits, including stormwater to be ordered through phone or text similar to the building permits. The next change will enable excavations to occur over the entire 180 days the right of way permit is open. Traffic Control will be required to be in place until the excavation is patched back with asphalt or concrete. 

Ms. Harp says this will be a huge game saver to Contractors and commends Mr. Monroe's and staff for getting this put together.

  • Moved by:Heather Harp

    Set a public hearing on April 26, 2021 and preliminarily adopt an ordinance of the Missoula City Council amending Chapter 12.24 Missoula Municipal Code entitled “Excavations” amending Sections 12.24.020,12.24.030, 12.24.040, 12.24.090, and 12.24.100 increasing the time for work to commence on a permit from 15 to 180 days, provide for remedies when permitted work does not meet standards, modify the requirements for resurfacing, and add storm sewer permits to the list of required excavation permits.

    AYES: (12)Stacie Anderson, Mirtha Becerra, John Contos, Heather Harp, Jordan Hess, Gwen Jones, Julie Merritt, Jesse Ramos, Amber Sherrill, Sandra Vasecka, Bryan von Lossberg, and Heidi West
    Vote results:Approved (12 to 0)

Brandt Dahlen Construction Project Coordinator with Public Works and Mobility presenting,

The request to vacate this land will provide a replacement area for what parkland was removed on Carousel Drive in order to facilitate loading zone parking and emergency access. The City of Missoula Parks Department already maintains this land and the current public use will not change. This vacation will formalize the area already being used in the form of a park. Charles McDermid, who is the adjacent property owner of the Holiday Inn, waived his rights to half of the vacation in order to make this happen. NorthWestern Energy will still have the right to access/maintain the facilities in this area.

  • Moved by:Julie Merritt

    Adopt a resolution declaring it to be the intention of the City Council of the City of Missoula, Montana, to close and vacate the south approximately thirty (30) feet of Pattee Street lying north of Bess Reed Park and at the southern end of the Pattee Street cul-de-sac, as described in Exhibit A, and set a public hearing on May 3, 2021.

    AYES: (12)Stacie Anderson, Mirtha Becerra, John Contos, Heather Harp, Jordan Hess, Gwen Jones, Julie Merritt, Jesse Ramos, Amber Sherrill, Sandra Vasecka, Bryan von Lossberg, and Heidi West
    Vote results:Approved (12 to 0)

Matt Holden, Project Manager from NorthWestern Energy presenting,

Northwestern Energy will be replacing 590,000 meters in Montana over the next three years. They have hired Tru-Check to replace the meters, and they have selected to start in Missoula. They plan on beginning on April 19, 2021, and the project should last about 16-18 months. The old meters will all be recycled.
The new meters have more technology and benefits for the customer and the community. The customer benefits include real-time energy use information available for customers vs. looking at monthly or historical use. They take a snapshot every hour, and that information is sent back to the data center at an 8-hour interval. The current meters require a truck to get a reading, and the information is for the month and not as accurate. Another benefit to the customer is that system voltage information can identify problems before an outage occurs. The new technology allows Northwestern Energy to see bad connections and dispatch crews before the customer will see an outage. The current meter is a one-way communication from the meter to the Northwestern Energy vehicles. The new meters communicate two ways so Northwestern Energy can communicate to the meter and the meter communicating to the data center. Everything is done over the air on demand. The new meters will also have net meter capabilities in them, which is the meter used for solar customers, eliminating the need for another meter.
The Community Benefits of the new meters include helping the environment by eliminating the need for meter reading vehicles. Disconnects and reconnects will also be done remotely, which will save driving and employee time.
In the future, Northwestern Energy would like to have a web portal for customers to access real-time reading information. For now, they would have to call customer service for this information. Other future hopes with the new meter technology are time of use capabilities and pre-payment options.
Mr. von-Lossberg commented that it would be a shame if the utility participated in any effort that eliminated the viability of solar in Montana and this community and negated the capability of these meters for net meter reading.
Ms. Harp requested that NorthWestern Energy make sure that the reservations are targeted and upgraded as well. Mr. Holden added they are working with various tribal associations.
Ms. Harp also added she would like to see some of the savings the company is getting with these new meters be passed onto ratepayers.

  • Informational item only—no motion required

    Vote results:

George Horvath and Steve Clawson from NorthWestern Energy presenting,

Various sources own the streetlights in Missoula, including NorthWestern Energy, the City of Missoula, and businesses such as the Southgate Mall. NorthWestern Energy has been replacing the street lights they own with Light-emitting Diode (LED) lights. These LED lights use about 50% less electricity than traditional lights and last two to three times longer. The poles will not need to be replaced because the new lights are compatible.
Mr. Clawson tracks any complaints NorthWestern Energy receives regarding the LED lights. He works hard to mitigate the complaint in several ways. These ways include pointing the light's nose down more and occasionally adding a shield to block any light shining at a residence. He has a weekly call with the City of Missoula staff to address these complaints and any the city receives. Ms. Jones added that a few of her constituents have been please with the service of complaints. Mr. von Lossberg said he has noticed people react to the lights because it's a significant change. The previous lights were so degraded and dull; the new ones seem really bright. He added the residents eventually got used to them, and he thanked Mr. Clawson for helping with the complaints.
Ms. West commented that a few people have mentioned that the LED lights seem beneficial to the night sky. Mr. Horvath said the lights are dark sky compliant and have a flat bottom with no light directed upward. The old lights had a dome that did have some light shining upwards.
Ms. Becerra thanked NorthWestern Energy and the City staff for working together.

Kevin Slovarp and Rick Larson from the City of Missoula presenting,

The City of Missoula staff also gave an update on City-owned streetlights. The City has replaced 90 lights with LED lights and plans to replace 60 more by the end of Summer 2021, which will complete all city-owned replacements. 

The City also has several Street Lighting Improvement Districts (SLIDs). When creating a new SLID, the requirements can be found in the Missoula City Public Works Standards and Specifications Manual. All new lights are required to put into a SLID, and the SLID pays for capital, operating, and maintenance costs. 

The City prefers to use an area method to set up a new SLID. As new lots are plotted, the property owner would pay for the district's cost based on the particular lot area. The Developer would continue to pay for the district's costs based on the district's size of un plotted land. The City would update the district assessments each year.

The City may add streetlights not currently in a lighting district to an existing SLID or change boundary lines to include these lights. All SLID's will go before the City Council for approval. 

Ms. Merritt has a group of constituents in the Curtis area that would like to have street lights in that area. Mr. Slovap said it could be a situation when a new SLID could be appropriate. Mr. Larson said that the City might have to require a certain amount of lights to create a district. There are other challenges associated with creating new or altering existing SLID boundaries. Such as property assessment, public engagement, property owner consent, and staff time. 

  • No Recommended Motion – Informational Only

    Vote results: