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Gering plans infrastructure work
April 20, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Soon, Gering will begin a long-term project to replace some of its aging water lines within the original part of the city.

Starting in the next couple of years, Gering will begin a long-term project to replace some of its aging water lines within the original part of the city.

Gering city staff had a planning session in January, and determined to inspect the city’s water and wastewater mains.

“We have water mains that are the originals and date back to 1917,” said Pat Heath, Gering’s director of public works. “Some are still in decent shape, but others are getting to the point where they need to be replaced.”

Originally, water mains were made of cast iron. Later, in the 1940s, the inside of the pipe was coated with cement to reduce rusting. Today, PVC pipe has replaced the metal of old.

Heath said the city is now setting money aside to begin infrastructure replacement in 2013 or 2014. The pipes scheduled for replacement are in the original part of town, between 4th and 13th Streets and from K to U Streets.

“Because we can get better pricing, we’d like to replace five or six blocks of pipe at a time,” Heath said. “A project to replace four to five blocks costs about $60,000 to $80,000. That’s about 18 to 23 dollars a foot.”

He added the only source of outside funding is the state’s revolving loan fund, where they can pay back the cost over time. All they can do is budget so much each year and do what work they can.

In the long term, water main replacement could run over the next 10 to 15 years and cover 25 to 30 blocks. And it’s up to the city to prioritize which projects get done first. Local funding comes from water user rates.

“The goal is to get about $60,000 in a fund to get started and still budget that amount every year,” Heath said. “And we also need to set money aside for other infrastructure projects.”

Heath said cost of materials always factors into projects. Federal regulations are clamping down on the amount of lead that can be used in brass. Brass fittings are needed to connect the pipe sections. New low-lead brass runs about 30 percent higher than what is currently used.

Also, replacing a fire hydrant used to run about $700. Now it’s up to $1,700.
“About every city is in the same boat as its infrastructure ages,” Heath said. “We’re fortunate the mains have lasted that long.”

Heath said the top priorities for replacement are 5th St. between N and R Streets, and O St. west of 13th.

“Many of the early water mains were four inches, which was a big size then,” Heath said. “Today it’s inadequate for the amount of water people use. Today we would put in an eight-inch pipe made of PVC. It would last at least as long was what we had before.”

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