'We've got to get water restored back to Capron'
December 3, 2021
Summoned by last-minute phone calls, Alva City Council members gathered Wednesday at 4 p.m. for an emergency meeting. It was the first time anyone could remember an emergency meeting being called, but seven of the eight councilmembers arrived. Randy Stelling was the only one unable to attend.
Mayor Kelly Parker opened the meeting flanked by City Business Manager Angelica Brady and City Attorney Rick Cunningham. The situation was grave. Rural Water District 1, based in Capron north of Alva, no longer had a supply of water. Some nearby towns and three rural water districts depend on Alva’s water supply.
Brady explained the situation, first giving the council some background. About two years ago when Alva was negotiating water rates with Rural Water District 1, it was agreed they would move their water meter inside the city limits to take advantage of a better water fee schedule. They also agreed to take responsibility for and ownership of the waterline from that meter on north. “We negotiated that over a three year period so they could install a new service line for their water district,” said Brady.
She said about a month ago, a board member from District 1 contacted her about negotiating an extension of the agreement for a year. The bids for the new waterline came in much higher than anticipated due to recent circumstances. While it’s possible they might finish within the three-year time frame, they wanted to make sure they could have more time if needed.
Brady said they city started talking about an extension in the finance committee and had placed the topic on the agenda for the next water-wastewater committee meeting.
Then the leak was found Tuesday morning in the 8-inch line. “Previously we had also used the 12-inch line. There was a leak about a year ago on the 12-inch line. Being in the same situation as we are now, not really being able to fix the leak on that 12-inch line, the decision was made by the Capron water district personnel and us to cap that line and not use it for the time being,” said Brady. It was expected the new line would be laid soon.
“Right now the issue with the 8-inch line is when it was bored, it was bored very deep,” she said. “I don’t know the reason it was bored so deep, but right now what we’re having an issue with is getting to the line. We’re trying to get all the dirt and sand scooped out of it but right now it’s just filling with water faster than we can get to it.”
Describing the two lines to the council, Brady said the 12-inch line crosses the river above the water while the 8-inch line goes under the river.
As it happened, the city’s engineer with Myers Engineering was in Alva Wednesday for some other work. He accompanied Brady to the site of the water leak north of town by the Salt Fork River. They believe the hole in the line is not very big, but the problem is getting to it to fix it.
The solution proposed was to use the old 12-inch line, which is 90 years old and made of cast iron. Brady said there’s a valve in the 8-inch line about 200 feet on each side of the river. “The thought is to take 8-in. poly line, and push it through the 12-in. line, using it as a sleeve basically to get it across the river,” she said. It is estimated 1,000 feet of poly line will be needed to reach from valve to valve.
A supplier was located who had 1,000 feet of 8-inch poly line in stock at $13.61 a foot. The total cost is within Brady’s $25,000 spending limit so she agreed to buy the line. It was expected to arrive Thursday morning.
“I went ahead and made that decision because I feel we’ve got to get water restored back to Capron, and if that’s the easiest solution and the quickest solution, then that’s what we need to do,” she said.
Meanwhile the engineer made some calls and located a company Alva has used before that is willing to help quickly. The owner and foreman were to arrive Thursday morning to decide if they can handle the job. If they can, they could have their crew at work as early as noon Thursday and possibly have service restored that night.
However, getting the crew here would cost a minimum of $30,000, which is over Brady’s spending limit. She emphasized that $30,000 doesn’t include the cost of the poly line and there may be more costs. $30,000 is the low end, she said. There would be no cost if the company decided Thursday morning that they couldn’t do the work.
Meanwhile, the city is working with Ethan Feidler, Woods County Emergency Management director, to get water to Rural Water District 1 customers. Pallets of bottled water will be stationed in Capron for residents to pick up. The City of Alva is opening up their water crane at the Public Works Department for anyone who wants to get bulk water for animals or other uses. The Alva Fire Department will also have bottled water available for the rural water customers who live closer to Alva than to Capron.
Brady said the district depleted the supply in their water tower sometime Wednesday morning, and they had to shut it down so they didn’t burn up their pumps. She said the water service was intermittent depending where on the line customers reside.
Mayor Parker reported Joe Surface who lives at the far end of the waterline said early this morning that he was getting a stream about the size of a pencil lead from his faucet.
Brady said the city will continue trying to dig down to the leaking waterline. If that is possible, they can work on getting it patched and back into use. But she’s not counting on that. “My opinion is we have to have an alternate solution if that doesn’t work,” she said.
Parker asked Cunningham if the wording on the agenda was adequate for a motion. Cunningham said that technically, there was no cap on the amount to be spent and that might need to be discussed.
Daniel Winters said, “My argument against the cap is that it is what it is. We have to restore service, whatever that takes.
“My concern is that we’re putting this new line in, and they have intent to replace that line in its entirety. When this line is installed, is it going to be discarded by us in the future? Is it retrievable down the line?”
Brady said she has not had time to read the contract but she believes when they take over service, they take all the waterlines. That’s what the rural district board member said when she talked with him at the site of the water leak.
“We don’t really have a leg to stand on but was there any discussion with them about absorbing any of the cost of restoring the service?” asked Winters.
Brady said cost had not been discussed although the water district staff has been on site. “As it sits right now, it’s our service line.”
Sadie Bier asked how sure they are of getting the poly line through. Brady answered that the engineer believes it can be done.
Bier asked what happens if that solution won’t work; what happens to the poly line.
“We can use it. We can sell it. It’s not going to go to waste,” said Brady.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what the reality is. It has to be done, whether that’s $250,000 or $10,000,” said Winters although he expressed hope it won’t be too costly
Brady said whatever happens, she’ll keep councilmembers “in the loop” through text messages. She said she’ll need to send separate messages (instead of as a group) to avoid any group discussion which could violate the open meeting act.
Greg Bowman said, “I’ve got a silly question. Can that infrastructure money be used to do this?” The city recently received the first of two ARPA fund payments.
Brady said she actually had a conversation about that. This project could go toward the city’s match for an infrastructure project, and she believes the money already received could go for this.
“That actually makes it not so burdensome feeling,” said Winters. “I hadn’t thought about that money.”
Bowman made a motion to authorize the city manager to exceed the $25,000 spending limit to fix a water leak and restore service. It was seconded by Winters and passed unanimously.
A video of the meeting may be viewed at http://www.AlvaReviewCourier.com.