BILLINGS — The Billings city water treatment plant may process wastewater from industrial properties on 1,194 acres in Lockwood after the Billings City Council approved an agreement with the Lockwood Water and Sewer District Board at a Monday meeting.
The agreement still has to be voted on by Lockwood property owners and language approved by the district court.
The Billings water treatment plant already processes wastewater from the Lockwood Water and Sewer District, said Chris Kukulski, Billings city administrator. The city has had an agreement with the Lockwood water district since 2008.
The Council approved a change to the old agreement and now charges an 18 percent surcharge on monthly wastewater revenue paid to the Lockwood water district from property owners on Lockwood Targeted Economic Development District land.
Kukulski said the additional charge is meant to offset the cost of keeping up with environmental regulations on discharge standards and risks of carrying more water through the system.
The city already charges a six percent surcharge to the Lockwood water district for monthly wastewater revenues generated from the rest of the district. The city currently brings in about $158,000 per year from the Lockwood Water Sewer District surcharges. With the new agreement, it's estimated to bring in an additional $24,000 per year.
The type of development that moves to the Lockwood TEDD will determine how much money the city stands to make from the agreement. With access to the railroad, the area's 468 developable acres is ripe for new industrial businesses, according to Big Sky Economic Development, a Billings-based business advocacy group.
While coming to the agreement, city leaders worked with Yellowstone County commissioners and the Lockwood Water and Sewer District board to come to a consensus. The three commissioners signed a letter earlier in October encouraging future cooperation on an interlocal agreement regarding development of other lands on the city/county border.
In particular, the commissioners mentioned agreements about the development of the Inner Belt Loop, a proposed roadway that would connect Zimmerman Trail at the top of Airport Road north to Wicks Lane in the Billings Heights.
Steve Arveschoug, executive director of Big Sky Economic Development, said the water agreement is a step in the right direction toward future cooperation.
“This agreement does set the stage for economic development growth opportunity in our broader community. I feel very strongly about that. I feel this is a cooperation that the city would be showing to the Lockwood community would not only produce benefits for Lockwood and the businesses in that area, but also produce benefits for the city," Arveschoug told the Council.
The council voted 10-2 to approve the agreement. Council Members Frank Ewalt of Ward 2 and Roy Neese of Ward 2 opposed the agreement. The Council Members foresaw problems with properties located in the area agreed to be serviced by the city, but aren't members of the Lockwood TEDD.
"While it's nice to see an 18 percent surcharge, I think it sells the deal to the Council, I believe this agreement will open up the city to additional lawsuits down the road when we have businesses within the new expanded area that are not part of the TEDD, that are not part of industrial paying 18 percent more than their neighbors just across the road. I think this agreement does not give the city the amount of control over the wastewater and the risk and who can connect," Neese said.