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Fire hydrant foibles faced
Efforts to repair fire plugs underway
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Great Bend Public Works crews continue their efforts to repair a fire hydrant at 24th and Washington. It as hit by a hit-and-run driver last week. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Great Bend’s Public Works Department personnel have been busy lately physically inspecting all the 507 fire hydrants in town, City Administrator Kendal Francis told the City Council Monday night.

“They’ve been through all of them, inspecting and flushing them,” he said. What they’ve found has caused some concern.

“Crews identified 10 that need repairs,” Francis said. Times to get this done are being scheduled.

Of the 10, a couple of notable ones neighbor each other and highlight a much larger problem. These are at 24th and Washington and 24th and Adams.

“What has compounded the problem is we have a lot of issues with valves that don’t work and we’re discovering that all across town,” he said. “These two in particular are troublesome.” 

Because they are not able to get the water shut down sufficiently due to the bad valves or rust, it is challenging to make repairs. The city will work with APEC, the Hutchinson contractor handling the ongoing waterline replacement project, to have them replaced since the company has the expertise and equipment needed.

“The one at Washington was just hit by a vehicle last week,” Francis said. When it was struck, Jefferson Elementary School had to cancel classes for the afternoon because city staff couldn’t get the water shut off quick enough. The valves were not accessible and not working.

Public Works crews have been at the Washington site, doing a lot of digging and high-pressure water excavation, Francis said. “They are making sure there are no uncharted lines in area.”

Unfortunately, he said, the city’s water system maps aren’t very complete. They have to figure out how things are tied together.

This is not an isolated occurrence, he said. “Those are issues we are discovering throughout the community. We are addressing it.”

The hit-and-run case at 24th and Washington remains under investigation, Francis said. “There may be some information about the vehicle,” and possibly area security cameras caught the incident. If identified, the driver will be charged with a crime and billed for the repairs. 

As a side note, many of the hydrants in Great Bend are so old there isn’t even a date stamped into them, said Assistant Public Works Director Simon Wiley. The city has budgeted to replace five hydrants per year. 

Eventually, all hydrants will be geo-located on the city’s digital GIS mapping system. That information will be available to emergency services electronically.