Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TOP STORY>>Sherwood sewer maps faulted as outdated

Leader staff writer

Sherwood has outdated sewer maps, doesn’t even know where all the manholes are and isn’t sure what parts of the 108 miles of underground sewer line are damaged or in disrepair. That’s why one of the first things the city needs to do to get out from under the thumb of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is to see what it has, what shape it is in and where it’s all at.

To do that, the Sherwood City Council on Monday approved a contract with Pipeline Analysis of Dallas to conduct a sewer-system evaluation survey, which includes updating maps, inspection and GPS marking of each manhole, monitoring sewer flow, smoke testing lines for leaks and damage, using a closed circuit television system to find even more damaged pipes and develop a priority plan to make the necessary repairs.

Pipeline Analysis outlines this work in a six-year plan that could cost the city about $600,000. Costs, which the council agreed to, for the first year will be $318,915. The money will be paid for by sales taxes collected for capital improvements.

Alderman Sheila Sulcer questioned the funding. “I’ve read the verbiage on the ballot where our residents approved the sales tax for capital improvements, and I’m not sure this is what we can use it for,” she said.

But attorney Larry Carpenter, who has been working on the contracted services with City Engineer Ellen Norvell, said it was an acceptable use.

“The state statute has been in the books since 1933, and this type of work is covered,” he told Sulcer and the rest of the council, after reading the law.

“I just don’t want someone to come up and challenge us on this,” Sulcer said of her concerns.

“I can’t guarantee someone won’t challenge, but we are on good grounds here,” Carpenter said, with City Attorney Stephen Cobb agreeing.

Forbes said the city has more than a million feet of underground sewer lines, and stretched out they would go from Sherwood almost to Memphis. Those lines have a replacement value of $57 million, Forbes said.

Norvell explained that the sewer analysis and repairs are things that need to be done anyway, but because the city is under an administrative order from ADEQ, it just has to be done “quicker than we might like. It would have been nice to spread out the cost a little more,” she said.

Alderman Becki Vassar acknowledged that updating and maintaining a good sewer system was essential. “People have to flush,” she said.

Pipeline Analysis is obtaining aerial maps from the county to help develop a layered map of the city’s sewer system. “It has cost us about $1,800 for the aerial maps, but if we had to do them ourselves the cost could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Forbes said.

Pipeline Analysis crews locate sewer line problems through smoke tests, flow monitoring or closed-circuit cameras, and then bids will go out on those repairs.

The survey, repair plans and timeline, along with paying a $15,500 fine, are among the first of many steps along the way to satisfy the ADEQ orders.

The $15,500 fine payment, along with the plan presented to the council, is due to ADEQ by Feb. 9.