The ongoing spate of waterline leaks in Great Bend that garnered much social media attention of late came to the attention of the City Council Monday night. Many of these leaks have been an issue since last fall.
“I truly don’t have a real excuse for why it has taken so long,” City Administrator Kendal Francis said. “There’s a lot of factors.”
But, “we are making significant progress,” he said. “I’m mindful that winter is not too far away. I am confident that we will have them done before that sets in.”
Towards the end of 2018, he said there were about 60 water leaks. Francis met with Public Works Director Simon Wiley who dedicated a couple of his Water Division crews to addressing the problem.
“We have to date repaired 92 (leaks),” Francis said. “We started with 60, but obviously, that number got a lot larger over the course of the winter.”
As of Monday, he said 29 remain to be fixed.
Social media attention
“Of those (29), there are five that have caught a lot of social media attention in the last few days,” he said. These are in the area of 23rd and 24th streets between Harrison and Jefferson along Meadowlark.
Here, there are four or five valves along the water main that are stuck in the open position, he said. They don’t have a way to shut them off or isolate the leaks.
The city is seeking pricing from contractors who can make the repairs, he said. Some of the work may be more than city personnel can handle.
But, he said the cost of the project will likely be above his “signature limit,” or what he can authorize without council approval. It could also exceed his $25,000 emergency authority, which he could approve and seek council ratification after the fact.
The only reference he had was the cost of some other valves the city had replaced which ran about $10,000 each. These are larger than those in the Meadowlark area, but may give some idea of the possible pricetag.
He said he hopes to have a proposal ready for the council before it meets next on Sept. 3. There is also a chance he could call a special meeting earlier should he be able cost estimates ready.
“A couple of senior employees were terminated, and in doing so, we lost some of the staff and capabilities to fix leaks in a timely fashion,” Francis said of what happened last fall. “Then winter got upon us, and we weren’t able to do some of those repairs.”
However, “since the new year has started, we have sped up that process.”
“We have looked at contracting local plumbers to assist with that,” he said. “That didn’t pan out as well as we had hoped.”
But, two new Public Works staff members (Jenna Pitchford and James Creamer) have stepped up with the to tackle these jobs. “They and the rest of the department have really been working hard to get this done,” Wiley said.
Long-term maintenance of the system has lagged some, but the system is also aging and deteriorating, he said. Now his team is working as fast as it can and he urged patience from the community.