The work of the fire and police departments usually receives the most attention in the newspaper as their work is often mentioned in dramatic stories of a rescue from a burning car or building, or the arrest of dangerous criminal. On the other hand, people tend to take for granted their City utilities. We all expect the water to be there when we turn on the faucet. It really doesn’t enter our minds that employees in the water department may have been up all night fixing a water main break, or employees in the wastewater department spent their evening repairing a sewer line. (Note: the words “wastewater” and “sewer” are used interchangeably here.) Most of the facilities that these departments are responsible for are underground, and the expression “out of sight, out of mind” may apply here.
In reality, the provision of water and sewer services holds a very important place in the menu of city services. These services must also be provided in compliance with state regulations, which are strictly monitored by state regulatory agencies. City utility employees are highly trained and experienced, and individuals with state utility licenses are responsible for their operation.
Let’s review some of the requirements for utility service operation as well as a few of the current projects.
Operations and MaintenanceThe City operates three water plants, one wastewater treatment plant, 34 sewer pump stations, and many miles of water and sewer lines. State regulations require that water samples be taken to a certified lab periodically to ensure that our water meets the state requirements for drinking water. Samples of treated wastewater water and sludge are also taken periodically and tested to ensure compliance with state regulations.
City utility workers have scheduled activities each day for the maintenance of facilities and equipment, and must also respond to emergency situations such as water and sewer main breaks, and any other events that could cause an interruption of service.
Automatic Water Meter ReadingIn addition to maintaining the water plants and wastewater plants, the City has over 9,800 water meters to be read every month. The City is gradually changing out these meters and replacing them with a more advanced meter that provides for the readings to be transmitted either by touching the meter with a reading wand, or by transmitting the readings directly to City Hall by radio waves. One of the farthest communities from City Hall, Lake Ashton, is the first area where the new meters are being installed.
New Water TowerThe Longleaf Business Park is an important asset for attracting new businesses to our community. However, the park cannot bring in additional businesses unless the proper water volume and pressure are available to operate the sophisticated fire sprinkler systems that are needed in these commercial buildings. Therefore, a new water tower was needed to serve the business park and the surrounding area. The new tower is now being constructed near the intersection of Scenic Highway and Hunt Brothers Road. The new tank will hold 500,000 gallons, which is the same size as the City’s water tower at the Eagle Ridge Mall. The cost of the new water tower is over $1.2 million dollars, paid for from the CRA bond. The Longleaf Business Park and some of the surrounding area are in the CRA. As other developments outside the CRA begin utilizing the new water tank, a portion of their water impact fee payments will reimburse the CRA.
Downtown Water ImprovementsCRA revenues are paying for the second phase of the downtown water system improvement. Much like the Longleaf Business Park, the development or rehabilitation of commercial buildings downtown requires that the proper water volume and pressure is available for the fire sprinkler systems. The first phase of this project is now finished. It provided the water service necessary to complete the build out of the top two floors of the Bank of America building. The first phase also provides improved service to the entire west side of downtown.
The second phase of this project is now under construction. It will provide improved water service to the east side of downtown, with lines recently constructed in the area of the public library.