Bill rescinds returned Evergreen sewer money

Daily Inter Lake

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., on Thursday introduced a bill in the Senate to rescind an unused 2003 earmark and instead use the $578,000 to help pay down the national debt.

Then-U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns had set aside the money for sewer improvements for Evergreen.

Last October, however, the Evergreen Water and Sewer District decided to give the $578,000 back to the federal government. But only Congress officially can rescind a previously approved earmark.

The funding was called “a Christmas present” in an Inter Lake story from December 2003, since there initially was confusion about who had asked for the money. 

The grant, as it turns out, was the result of a conversation Pam Holmquist, a member of the Evergreen board, had with Burns about the district’s desire to build its own wastewater treatment facility.

After the earmark was announced in 2003, the Associated Press reported the “Evergreen Sewer District didn’t ask for it and officials don’t know what to use the expected windfall for.”

According to a press release from Tester’s office on Thursday, his bill essentially “tears up a check that was never cashed,” requiring the Evergreen money to instead be used to pay down the national debt.

The seven-member Evergreen board decided unanimously in October 2010 to give the money back because of the federal government’s budget deficit.

"Given the state of the economy, somebody’s got to take the lead,” Jack Fallon, president of the Evergreen board, said at the time.

He noted that the district came up with several projects the money could be used for, but in the end the board decided to give the money back.

Other contributing factors include the federal government spending money on the stimulus package and the extra reporting and contracting requirements that have come into play since the grant first was awarded.