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Water infrastructure master plan in works

A crew works on West McGaffey Street and South Union Avenue where a water main break burst on Nov. 6. City Engineer Louis Najar, not pictured, said McGaffey may not open until mid-January at a public forum. (Alison Penn Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

City officials shared progress on tackling water main breaks and the smart-water meter project at a public forum.

At the last public forum of the year on Dec.10, City Manager Joe Neeb and City Engineer Louis Najar addressed work on water main breaks on West Gayle Street and West McGaffey.

Neeb said the number of water main breaks has influenced the decision for the city to begin drafting a master plan for the water infrastructure — similar to the street condition survey for improvements that have begun citywide.

“That will be a conversation we have at council — is doing the master planning for our infrastructure as well, too,” Neeb said. “We don’t like to have to keep dealing with these main breaks on the basis that we are doing. And they’re controlling us, we’re not controlling them. So, the intent is to get a better picture as to what we have out there — because again, we want to focus on those things that are the most important and work our way out.

“And so that’s something to just be aware of with that — the planning is there because we only have X number of dollars to spend on all of that infrastructure and we want to make sure it’s focused.”

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In September, Lorenzo Sanchez, the water and sewer line superintendent, said several more breaks were expected for the city’s water system. Sanchez said possible leaks are expected near East Third Street and North Garden Avenue. In addition to this one, Najar added that South Main and East Poe streets and also North Kentucky Avenue and West Mescalero Road are other potential areas.

Also in September, the city of Roswell’s Finance Committee decided to authorize interdepartmental transfers rather than dipping in the water enterprise reserve funds to cover the Gayle Street project.

Water infrastructure 

In previous coverage, Najar described the water infrastructure as taxing to the city and also to the city crews maintaining it. On West Gayle Street, the city is working on a 36-inch line and the project is nearing completion. Najar said his crew has a handle on West Gayle Street and they are now replacing the curb, gutters and roads from a 1-mile stretch on West Gayle Street, from South Main Street and South Sunset Avenue, that were affected when the 36-inch line was fixed.

At the end of West Gayle Street and South Sunset Avenue, Najar said concrete crews are conducting repairs where the 42-inch line stop was installed.

On Nov. 6, another water main on West McGaffey Street and South Union Avenue also burst and crews are still working there. Najar said once the work on West McGaffey is done, it will be the first road with large diameter valve replacement to be completed and reopened.

Najar shared “bad news” on McGaffey’s status. He said one of the repairs is leaking and the contractor will have to cover the cost of the line stop — which could cost $50,000 to $60,000 to warranty the work at no extra cost to the city. Najar estimates that McGaffey and Union will not be open until Martin Luther King Jr. Day, since parts for this type of work have to be special ordered.

One of the citizens present, Larry Connolly, asked about water meters and when the bill will show how much water the household is using. Finance Director Monica Garcia said the billing will be adjusted after the software’s final installation and implementation.

Water meters 

For updates on the 19,000 water meters, Najar said the city is still waiting on delivery of 500 meters since there was a “bad batch” — but the end of the $20 million smart-water meter project is close to completion. After the meters arrive, Neeb said the job would only take about two weeks, “weather-permitting.” The next step is to ensure the software is compatible, Najar said.

Neeb said the current software system is antiquated compared to the high-tech meters and transition “hasn’t flowed as well as we’d like to see it.” He said change over from a “very manual system” will take two years to do and the city is making progress.

On the Questions, Discussion and Ideas for Creating a Better Roswell Facebook page, some citizens have been posting personal stories about their water meters and issues they have faced in trying to resolve problems. For citizens who are experiencing water emergencies or need to shut off their water, Neeb, Najar and Garcia said they should call Central Control.

Najar said Central Control will “always answer” and Neeb said they are open 24/7 and 365 days per year. The number for Central Control is 347-5421 and the address is 1200 W. Hobson Road.

Neeb said some calls to the city’s water utilities department can “get jumbled” and property owners still have a house shut-off where they don’t have to touch the smart meters at all. Since some citizens have expressed confusion on who to call, Garcia said that utility billing is a whole different department than Central Control. She also said the city is looking into a possible IT issue with the water utility billing phones. For questions about the water bills, the utility billing department can be reached at 575-624-6711 and is located at 415 N. Richardson Ave.

For future reference, Najar said meter techs will come from Central Control and not out of customer service. Neeb said the big picture is to have a “pool of employees to work with meters and how to maintain them.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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