Loan Tweak Saves Some From Hiking Rates "Significantly" - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Loan Tweak Saves Some From Hiking Rates "Significantly"

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BIGFORK -

Bigfork gets a better deal at the bank as part of a far reaching change that's saving Montana taxpayers $29 million over the next two decades.

Governor Bullock said he's lowering the interest rates on a loan program that fuels water work in local cities.

The wastewater treatment plant in Bigfork serves around three to four thousand people. Of course, in summer that average is lower. To build up extra capacity and have a backup in case something goes wrong, the water and sewer district has been working since 2010 to put in more pipelines and dig more wells. Officials already put in $900,000 of taxpayer money so far. Now they're asking for about $1.5 million from the state.

"The state revolving fund is money that is in the state coffers that people borrow from for public works projects and then pay back into, so it's revolving," said Julie Spencer, the manager of the Bigfork water and sewer district.

That money isn't just for the taking. It comes with a more than 3% interest rate, that is until this past Friday. Now it's been bumped down around 2.5%.

"Just over the course of a 20 year loan you pay a lot less interest on 2.5% than 3.75% interest," said Spencer.

That makes at least thousands of dollars of difference to Bigfork taxpayers. The new lower rate will touch 19 projects statewide, ranging from a $26 million undertaking in Butte, to a project using less than half a million dollars in Philipsburg. Governor Bullock has said that cutting costs for local infrastructure projects is part of his Main Street Montana program.

"We may have had to raise rates significantly to pay for it," said Spencer.

With the loan, the initial investment in the wells, and a grant for three-quarters of a million dollars, Spencer hopes to dig this summer and be done by 2015.

A project not even an hour away from Bigfork, in Whitefish, is also on the list for the new interest rate. That project is estimated to cost about a half a million dollars.

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