Beginning in the fall of 2017, the City of Great Bend embarked on an extensive water line replacement project in the heart of the city. That effort, which has increased in scope since inception, nears conclusion.
“Weather permitting we would expect substantial completion by the end of May,” City Administrator Kendal Francis said. It’s been a long process, and there where times when streets were closed and water turned off in the impacted areas, and officials are glad the end is in sight.
The issue dates to 2016 when the City Council approved a $6 million bond issue for water system upgrades with eyes on replacing many of the city’s crumbling 60-year-old cast iron water pipes. Included originally were 18 water lines totalling 35,000 linear feet. Most of the work was in the downtown area, including 10th Street between Washington and Main, and Main Street between 10th and 19th streets.
However, with costs lower than anticipated, five change orders have been OKed to include additional lines and other improvements, the most recent Monday night. This has brought the total amount replaced to 50,000 feet, just shy of 10 miles worth.
“This takes care of most of the 1950s and 60s cast iron lines,” Josh Golka, an engineer for the city’s on-call engineering firm Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita, told the City Council Monday night. After the additions and the additional engineering fees to PEC, there is still $100,000 left of the bond money.
Golka said he is comfortable with that balance and it would be enough to cover incidental expenses that might arise. Due to the conditions of the bond agreement, the funds must be used for water system-related projects.
The city is also looking at additional upgrade to use up any leftover funds, but $100,000 isn’t enough to tackle anything too large. Being considered are the installation of remotely-read water meters, replacing more fire hydrants and other changes.
There are more lines that need to be replaced as well, but Francis said the majority of the of the most critical ones have been addressed. “Also, I would anticipate the next phases would be smaller and the ultimate goal would be that yearly replacement would be built into the city’s annual budget over time.”
When PEC conducted a master water study for the city 15 years ago, this work was identified as the first phase of a more comprehensive effort.
In June 2017, the council accepted the low bid of APAC-Kansas Inc. Shears Division of Hutchinson for $3,787,417.
A staging area had been established in the city-owned parking lot at 12th and Baker where stacks of blue poly-vinyl chloride pipe and gleaming new red fire hydrants stand at the ready.
Of the $6 million bond issue, $1 million was set aside for engineering services, design and new water meter installations that can be handled by city employees. This left $5 million for the water line replacements. The low bid meant there was money available for surprises and unexpected problems, as well as additional feet of waterline and other improvements.
The contractor used directional drilling which allowed the crew to bore under the street and will there will be little damaging the street surfaces except patches where they have dig to start the boring. APEC did drill holes at each end of each block to insert the drilling equipment, and these areas are now being patched as part of the contract.
This is a safety issue, city officials said at the outset. The decades-old six-inch pipes have corroded so much that at some points the opening has been reduced to the size of a ball-point pen.
Not only will this improve water flow, it will also improve the water pressure for area fire hydrants.