HAZARD—The Hazard City Commission met for its first regular monthly meeting with the new city manager Monday night, and discussed a large project to upgrade the Hazard City Water System after frigid weather earlier this year produced multiple waterline breaks causing large area water outages.
Hazard City Engineer Hank Spaulding presented the commissioners with bids, taken on March 7, for the different contracts of the Hazard Water Systems Improvements Project. In total, Spaulding said, the project would cost around $5 million for the four contracts.
The Herald reported in January that the project was estimated to cost around $4.5 million, and would include improvements such as replacing booster stations with variable electronic controls to better regulate water flows in areas prone to water losses, installing new master water meters, and upgrading the system’s telemetry equipment to help the city monitor and remotely control system operations.
Spaulding said because the project would be over the original estimated budget, additional loan funds would have to be requested from the Kentucky Rural Water Finance Corporation, and that those coupled with grant funds would cover the cost—though the city may have to take additional measures to ensure the increased loan, if granted, would be repaid.
“There are additional loan dollars that will be part of this project. Rural development may come back in the future and they may say, City of Hazard, because of these additional loan dollars you need to revise your water rates to enable you to pay back those loan dollars. Rural development probably wants to leave that avenue open,” Spaulding explained to the commissioners.
Spaulding said even though water rates were raised just a year ago and may need to be raised again, the benefits of the improvements from the project far outweigh any negatives that may come with the cost.
“If the master metering program is as successful as we think it would be, I think it would pay for itself in probably a couple of years,” Spaulding said.
Spaulding said these improvements to the system were urgently needed, especially if the city wanted to avoid another water emergency like the one in January.
“The telemetry equipment’s on its last leg, it’s equipment that’s no longer supported by anyone, so it (the project) replaces those areas where the equipment is 25 years old, 30 years old possibly, and it’s really, truly on its last leg,” he said, adding that if the city does not go through with the project, money would have to be spent in the next year or two to replace that same equipment anyway—something the city would have to pay for itself to the tune of more than a half a million dollars.
Spaulding said though the cost and size of the project may seem daunting, it would greatly improve the city’s chances of finding and fixing water breaks and issues faster in the future.
“I wish I could say that if we do this project the system will never have problems again, I wish I could say that,” he said. “I certainly think that it will tell us, when we are having those issues, where that water is going, which is a pretty cool thing.”
The commissioners passed an amended resolution to continue with the contracting process if and only if the Kentucky Rural Water Finance Corporation would loan the city the additional funds needed. Commissioners Happy Mobelini and Fitz Gilbert were not in attendance and therefore did not vote on the resolution.
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.