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Commission saves money, selects wastewater treatment system

POLSON — Polson City Commissioners chose a sequenced batch reactor, priced at $14.3 million, instead of a membrane bioreactor with a price tag of $18.3 million for Polson’s new wastewater treatment system at their Nov. 17 meeting. That means $14.83 less on each water bill for Polson consumers.

The change came about after Polson City Engineer Shari Johnson and DOWL/HKM Engineer Kevin Johnson made a presentation at the Nov. 3 meeting and brought new information to the commissioners.

Previously Shari had reported on stringent regulations probably coming from the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with nutrients. On Nov. 3, she said those regulations were halted, and the entire regulatory process had begun again. 

Commissioner John Campbell said the commission’s justification for the membrane bioreactor was to get the most nutrient removal.

“The reality of those extreme nutrient regulations is that we’re not going to have to meet them as quickly,” Campbell said. “Why design for something we don’t need?” 

The SBR system does the same treatment process without the nutrient removal, Campbell said, adding that SBR filtration could be added four or five years down the road if needed.

“My feeling when I came out of that meeting (Nov. 3) was that I didn’t see how we could justify the extra $4 million just to get something we want, not something we need,” Campbell said. 

Commissioner Jill Southerland asked what guarantee the city has that agencies involved won’t change their minds.

“There are no certainties,” Polson Mayor Heather Knutson answered. 

Southerland also asked how much adding SBR filtration would cost. 

Knutson and Campbell said that would cost approximately $2 million. 

Polson Water and Sewer Superintendent Tony Porrazzo referred to the fact that the city is five or six months into the time allotted for designing the wastewater treatment system, with nothing designed.

“You’ve got a tough decision to make. Make it,” he said.

The commission unanimously voted on the SBR wastewater treatment plan.

In other business, commissioners discussed the possible sale of the golf course liquor license. Commissioner Dan Morrison moved to table the issue until the next meeting to give commissioners more time, and to allow Commissioners Todd Erickson and Stephen Turner, who were absent, a chance to vote.

The city paid $55,000 for the liquor license. The last full liquor license that changed hands in Polson went for $95,000.

The commissioners also approved first reading to amend the city of Polson’s building codes, and to approve first reading of the adoption of chapter 1, article 1, and chapter 2, articles 1, 2 and 3 of the Polson book of ordinances, dealing with meetings, oaths of office, etc. The public may read these on the city’s website at

The next city commission meeting will be held Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at Polson City Hall. 

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