New England explores possible water project

Water. A commodity that is necessary for life to survive.

Map of New England with a rendering of Phase 1 of the water project by Moore Engineering
Map of New England with a rendering of Phase 1 of the water project by Moore Engineering. Photo provided by Moore Engineering

Posted July 4, 2014

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Water. A commodity that is necessary for life to survive.

As the infrastructure deteriorates with age, the delivery of that commodity to the citizens of New England has seen some struggles. And as most citizens can attest to, the water pressure around town has been less than desirable, and the quality at times has room for improvement. To remedy the issues, the New England City Council has been researching different avenues they can take for improvement.

That’s where Moore Engineering comes in. Moore Engineering, a firm out of West Fargo, N. D., was hired by the council to do a complete analysis of the water and sewer infrastructure of New England, and they explained their results and possible solutions at a public forum meeting on Monday, Jun. 30 at Memorial Hall on Main Street in New England.

The current water and sewer distribution system was built in 1947, with the existing water tower going up in 1983 and two lagoons being built in 1954 with expansion in 1978.

The current system, according to City Manager Dave Smith, only has so much time before it starts to deteriorate.

“Pretty much, the infrastructure is designed for about 50 years,” Smith said.

By that time frame, the city has over extended the current system by almost 20 years.

When looking at the system, the report found a number of issues New England is suffering from.

“Insufficient fire flow demands, low water pressures throughout the systems, poor water circulation, low chlorine measurements throughout the systems and water age issues,” Project Engineer Cavin Berube said. “Basically the water just wasn’t getting circulated well enough, and there’s issues arising from those things.”

The issue of water flow can be linked to the size of the pipes and corrosion occurring inside the aging metal. The pipe is four inches and isn’t sufficient for proper flow, and hurting the system even more is the build up from corrosion, which according to Senior Project Manager Kent Ritterman, has shrunk the pipe from the inside.

“That four inch pipe is now two, three inches in places,” Ritterman said. “It affects flow, pressure, all that.”

What could be more concerning to the citizens is how the current system performs in cases of fire emergencies.

“Part of the problem with the four inch size is fire flow, providing that fire flow that you need when you do have an emergency, we simply just can’t get it in parts of town.” Ritterman said. “We simply just don’t have that fire flow.”

Along with corroded piping, old and faulty valves could contribute to the system not performing correctly during an emergency, which would be improved as part of the project.

Water loss has also become another issue for the city. With the age of the pipes, according to Berube, you will see that occur. At this point, the city is losing over $17,000 annually through water loss.

“With the age of the water main, and water main breaks water loss can become a big issue,” Berube said. “They’re (the city) just paying for water that’s either seeping into the ground through cracked pipes or it’s through water main breaks, or it’s just not being metered correctly.”

Along with upgrading the water system, the sewer system is also in need of changes.

According to Moore Engineering and their report, some of the sewer system is simply past the usable time frame, cost for infiltration and inflow will only rise for the city, and with the possibility of city growth the current system will put more pressure on the collection system.

When looking at the entire project, Moore Engineering broke it down into four phases, and both Berube and Ritterman went over the first phase during the special meeting.

Phase 1 improvements would include, according to the presentation, replacing water main, gate valves, water services, fire hydrants, older water meters, sanitary sewer mains and sanitary sewer manholes and install a new water tower. The current water tower, according to Moore Engineering is just too big to handle the population of New England. These changes would be total removal and replacement.

Total for the Prelimnary Phase 1 project cost was estimated at $5,000,000.00.

The initial phase does not include much sewer changes, which was done on purpose due to the location of the sewer lines and the higher demand for better situation with the water.

“A lot of the sewer in town, as most of you probably know, runs down the alleys, so that ends up being in kind of a different area, and right now the initial plan is to try and take care as much of the water issue because that’s the key component to the project the city has had us look at,” Berube said.

So where is the funding going to come from? That’s where Moore Engineering comes in again. Nestled in their engineering services, they also assist communities with acquiring the proper funding for these things, which was one of the main reasons New England Mayor Marty Opdahl said the council chose Moore Engineering.

“The main reason probably for us, is they’re a company that goes through the whole process,” Opdahl said. “They’re not just an engineering firm, they’re taking care of the financing and giving us the complete project.”

They have worked with many other cities, and they have located, and acquired grant money for a portion of the total bill.

According to the presentation, Moore Engineering is looking at trying to attain at least 45% of the cost through grant money. They have worked with Rural Development in the past and will do so for New England’s proposed project.

Rural Development also has loan projects they can offer communities for these projects. A Rural Development Loan, according to Moore Engineering, could be for 40 years at 3.35% interest which would make it a $136,216 per year payment.

How the loan is paid for would be up to the city. Among ideas discussed at the public forum were sewer rate increase, water rate increase, special assessments, sales tax increase, or a combination of the four. Though there were some opinions voiced as to which would be the better option, nothing substantial was decided.

So why now? If the city waits, the cost is going to go up. According to a project Moore Engineering did in Oaks, N. D., costs increased by an average of 8% per year between 2009 and 2013.

Moore Engineering has already contacted the proper agencies related to the project such as environmental agencies along with other state entities.

“The next step, is we have to decide whether in fact we are going to hire Moore Engineering to do this, to move forward with this,” Opdahl said.

Though nothing was given a final decision at the conclusion of the meeting, Opdahl believes it was a good source of information for the public.

“Moore Engineering provided New England residents with their outstanding expertise and solution to our current aged and flawed water and sewer systems, while listening to the residents viable concerns and ideas. They will consider these concerns and ideas, utilizing their expertise to validate or invalidate these ideas, if they revise their plan it will be due to our concerns, coupled with their expertise. The end result will be the best obtainable solution for the City of New England and its residents as a whole.”

The final step before breaking ground will be for the council to decide how to finance it.

If all goes to plan, and the city moves forward with the project and they are awarded the funding, construction would begin in May 2015.

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