Crothersville’s water infrastructure hasn’t had a major upgrade since the early 1990s.
Upon a recent study of the system, it was determined the time has come for another upgrade.
Dan Wright, chief executive officer and geologist/environmental specialist for FPBH Inc., presented information on the process of putting together a preliminary engineering report and options for the changes to the system during a recent special meeting with the Crothersville Town Council.
While a lowest cost option was included, Wright recommended the next step up so it addresses issues for the future.
“Realistically, you could throw a lot of Band-Aids out there, but you’re still going to have the same problems,” he said. It’s not that we want to make a big project. It’s just that if you’re going to do a project, you probably just need to do everything you need to do and get yourself down the road so at least you can get close to the end of the bond that you’re going to have to issue.”
Among the issues with the current water system are the two wells near Countryside Park. Wright said they are just not good at all.
“They just need to be shut down, plugged out and move on,” he said. “We have one well that’s next to the wastewater treatment plant that’s a good production well. We have enough space there to put another well and possibly north of the creek a third well if we wanted to go that route.”
FPBH also looked at Crothersville purchasing water instead of making water.
“When you look at a town the size of Crothersville, it’s just a lot per person to produce water just because you’re not producing it for thousands of people. You’re producing it for 1,500 people, so it’s just really difficult,” Wright said.
The town’s production cost for water is about $3.80 per 1,000 gallons, but if Crothersville was to purchase it from Stucker Fork Water Utility in neighboring Scott County, it would be $1.80 per 1,000, Wright said.
“That would be a big mental change for the community to say, ‘OK, we’re not producing our own water. We’re purchasing it,'” he said. “We wouldn’t really necessarily suggest that you sell your water system. We’ve seen communities do that, and it’s always pretty tough. Plus, you lose a stream of income for supporting some of the other things in your community.”
Currently, if the town buys a piece of equipment shared by the sewer, water and street departments, the cost can be split between the three. If the town sold its water system, however, the cost could only come from sewer and street, so it becomes more financially burdensome on those departments, Wright said.
Also, since the salaries of all town employees except for police officers come out of the water and sewer funds, if the town sold its water system, all of the employee pay would come out of the sewer fund.
Wright also said the filtration system at the plant is in major need of replacement.
“It’s not a matter of rehab. It’s bad enough that it needs to be replaced, and that alone is going to be probably around $400,000 by the time you do labor and cost of materials,” he said.
Yet another issue is fire flow capacity at the industrial park.
Wright said each factory has its own storage facility; however, there’s not enough capacity to hold anything because the friction loss of water coming up from Austin through Stucker Fork, which feeds that area, doesn’t have the capacity to provide good water.
“There are going to be times that they are going to have no flow,” he said. “We did a flow test on it, and it just took it no time to get down to where you couldn’t fight a fire with it. It’s just really, really bad.”
He suggested adding a smaller capacity water tower near the industrial park entrance close to the lift station on town property. That also would give the town some flexibility to grow the industrial park, he said.
Wright said there are fire hydrant and valving issues around town, too.
“Some hydrants, you couldn’t hook a pumper truck to (due to) valving that’s gone or bad or never existed, so if you have a leak, you can’t really isolate a certain section of town to make those repairs,” he said. “You have to shut down everything to make repairs. It’s just very difficult to operate a system like that.”
Both Utility Director Mason Boicourt and Water Superintendent Chris Mains agree with Wright’s assessment.
Boicourt is in favor of the town buying water but still owning the system.
“If we have a leak now, we’re still losing money because it costs us to produce the water. Even though it comes from a well, it still costs us to produce it, so we’re losing money,” he said.
“We’re just paying the price for stuff not being upgraded,” Mains said. “Age has finally caught up to Crothersville.”
Boicourt also said a complete overhaul of the system would address some of the issues residents have with outages during a repair.
If the town decides to move forward with the project, Wright said it would be at least a two-year process. That would involve negotiating with Stucker Fork to ensure it has capacity, approving a preliminary engineering report, creating an asset management plan, establishing a maintenance plan, applying for funding and permits and doing design work.
“There are just a lot of pieces that have to go into that, so that will take a good little bit of time,” he said.