"When a water line breaks, [responders] can't isolate the break because the valves don't work," Trent Lard, vice president of Sweitzer Engineering Inc., said. "We looked into that and a lot of the pipeline is old, galvanized steel put in in the 1940s, and you can't put a new valve on those pipes because they're rotten."
Through an investigation performed by Sweitzer at the former mayor's request, it was determined that the aging pipelines need to be replaced. Currently, the city has two miles of 2-inch lines and two miles of 4-inch lines that are recommended for replacement with 6-inch lines.
Maps were presented during the hearing with highlighted areas along the roads where new lines are needed and another map with bold outlines explaining the proposed project improvements. These maps are on display at city hall for residents to review and ask questions.
The proposals offered by Sweitzer include an addition of a new water storage tank to the south of town and improvements to the west of town in order to raise service pressures on Massengale Road. Concerns are higher in that area because when fire hydrants are opened, the pressure drops considerably and there may not be enough water pressure to extinguish flames. Lard addressed the issue that emergency responders to any possibility of a fire situation would run out of pressure very quickly if they tried to open fire hydrants and that action would pull negative pressure into the line, which can then suck dirt back into the pipeline and contaminate it.
"There have been some questions associated with the improvements to raise the service pressure on Massengale Road," Lard said. "We did look at one alternative to what we have shown. What we have shown [on the maps of proposed changes] is a pump station and a storage tank. The one alternative that's possible is to put that pipeline onto the county's system on Highway 293. The county's water tank is a lot higher than [Kingston's] and would raise pressures."
While the idea may be possible to service Massengale Road through the county, the option is merely a concept at this point and no discussions have occurred between the city and county and no decisions have been made on what the city will do moving forward. However, if Kingston decides to seek that alternative, the water would have to be purchased from the county and there would be no need to install a water tank or pump station.
Another main area of concern was along Bradley Trail. In that area, Sweitzer is proposing continuing running the line around the top of the hill and back to the main road to better service the area. Currently, the line runs along Bradley Trail and stops at the top of the neighborhood's hill. Sweitzer's proposal would complete the line, allowing responders to a possible line break to cap it in one spot and not deprive the rest of the neighborhood of water service while any repairs are made if and when such an incident occurs.
Throughout the meeting and at other city council meetings, members of the community -- along with Mayor Ronald Casey and council members Ed Miklas, Louise Howell and Harold Posey -- raised questions and concerns in regard to the city's ability to fund the project. Lard offered that the city may be eligible for a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as a low-interest loan if the department found the city to be eligible for such funding. According to Lard, the USDA typically would offer a grant to cover 45 percent of the total project cost, which -- if all specifics of the project are approved without alternatives to supplying areas with water from the county -- sits at $2.3 million.
If the city is able to finance a loan, should one be offered through the USDA, the estimated cost would be roughly between $4,300 and $4,700 per month.
Although Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds remain in the city's use, those funds may be used toward the payments on another loan for the purchase of water meters or other projects. The city is expecting to receive funds from the next SPLOST, but those are designated for a new community center, city hall and youth center. Casey said he has discussed the option to change those projects with Commissioner Clarence Brown, but was told projects are not allowed to be changed. However, the option of requesting an emergency change due to the dire need for water improvements may be possible, though it is unlikely per Casey's previous conversations with the commissioner.
No projects have been approved as the city continues to explore options and is waiting until finances are available for any and all improvements to be made. A city council meeting is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at city hall. All community is invited and encouraged to attend to voice opinions.