Water station proposal prompts questions

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home Budget Committee member Dave Trask questioned the wisdom of including a $130,000 water filling station in the 2012-12 city budget during the committee’s meeting Thursday evening, May 3.

The water filling station was in the budget for this year, 2011-12, but it was not constructed. The proposed filling station would be built off 24th Avenue at the Public Works Maintenance Yard and includes funding for construction of an approach and turnaround, pumps and a small block building. It would provide bulk water 24 hours per day, seven days a week. It will include three types of connections.

Contractors, the city of Waterloo, the Linn County Road Department and others use Sweet Home city hydrants for bulk water. To access the water, they must visit City Hall and obtain a permit. The filling station would include some type of card lock mechanism to allow them to pay for water.

Funding for the project would come from systems development charges and the Water Capital Construction Fund. Funding in the capital fund came from water rates and may be used for construction of new infrastructure. The SDC funding may be used to expand infrastructure and receives funding from property developers when they construct new buildings.

“That seems like a waste of money,” Trask said.

The filling station started as a Federal Emergency Management Agency Project, said Public Works Director Mike Adams. FEMA had offered grant funding for it, but the agency wanted the city to put a tap directly into one of its reservoirs. In an emergency situation that affects water supply and the lines to the reservoirs are subject to the same hazards, so the city declined to build a tap at the reservoirs.

Rather, it proposed the current project, and FEMA declined to fund that.

“I believe it’s going to pay for itself,” Adams said. It’ll be more customer-friendly. RV users will be able to access it, and “it’ll be a revenue resource.”

Right now, people are opening hydrants and breaking them, Adams said.

It also protects the integrity of the system, ensuring that hoses connected to the water system have a backflow prevention device, said City Manager Craig Martin.

Trask asked how many times the city has had a broken hydrant in the past 10 years. Adams said there was one incident near 35th Avenue.

“Does Lebanon have one?” Trask asked. “Is this common?”

Adams said it is common.

Chairman Chuck Begley said it only takes one time for contaminant to enter the water system, and that would cost more than this project.

He added that Lebanon provides a hydrant with a backflow prevention device near the Lebanon Fire Department.

Adams said that people who draw water through hydrants are required to use a backflow prevention device in Sweet Home.

Martin said the city has a substantial amount of water that is not accounted for, and unauthorized use of hydrants may be part of the reason as well as fire department use. The city’s water customers pay for that extra water production.

The filling station will help the city track where that water is going, Adams said. “We want to know where it’s going and how it’s going out.”

In addition, it will help the city to cut down on unauthorized use of hydrants and theft of water, Adams said, although “I’m not going to give the impression there’s a widespread theft problem.”

“Once it’s in place, we’re going to advertise the heck out of it,” Adams said, and from this point forward, the city will encourage witnesses to report unauthorized use of hydrants to the police when they see it.

During emergencies, it will be a source of potable water for people who lose access to water, Adams said.

“It’s the control factor and to be able to allow people to use it 24/7,” Adams said.

Present for the Budget Committee discussion were councilors Craig Fentiman, Marybeth Angulo, Mike Hall, Scott McKee Jr. and Greg Mahler and committee members Andrew Allen, Begley, Bruce Hobbs, Greg Korn, Gerritt Schaffer and Trask. Absent were councilors Jim Gourley and Ron Rodgers and member Stephanie Boccardo.