NEEDLES — A water main failure and ensuing smaller leaks that began Jan. 14 are drawing attention to the age and condition of the city’s water delivery infrastructure.

City Manager Rick Daniels and Bryan Hickstein, who heads up the city’s water department, addressed the Jan. 28 meeting of Needles City Council to give an update on the problems that occurred and the work they expect needs to be done. Another update was placed on the agenda for the meeting of Feb. 11.

Details provided in the Jan. 28 meeting show an expected cost of around $300,000 for the mid-January failures.

Looking ahead a $10,523,261 system improvement plan was included in the presentation that Daniels described as, “16 things costing $10 million that are urgent to be done.” Of that, around $1.7 million may be funded by grants: a $500,000 WaterSmart grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to install AMI meters; and a $1.2 million grant from the State Water Resource Control Board for a booster station, main replacement and larger pipes along Lilyhill Drive. The rest is scheduled to come from asset replacement funds.

Utility Board Chair Terry Campbell wrote Jan. 29 to explain that asset replacement funds were established in the rate policies for water and waste water service by the utility board and city council between 2010 and 2014.

A web search indicates AMI stands for Advanced Metering Infrastructure: essentially a means of determining how much water was used without having to send someone out to read a meter. Said Daniels, “We’ll do it if we get the money.”

Items on that list of 16 totaling more than a million dollars, besides the Lilyhill booster station, are a new well for $2 million; main replacement and new service lines in the area of Vista Street at $1.3 million; replacing deteriorating pipe in the Coronado Street area at $1.38 million; and a 16-inch bypass for the main at the D Street Bridge — the one that failed on Jan 14 — at $1 million.

A separate, more detailed section labeled ‘opinion of probable construction costs — existing system improvements — set forth a total of $4,571,000 for:

• Providing backup capacity to existing wells at $684,000;

• Removing a bottleneck to the Parkway upper tank at $278,000 (Parkway is the western-most city street running between J Street and Lilyhill Drive);

• Installing a new upper tank at Schulz Road at $2,854,000 (Schulz Road is the southernmost city street in the Gates Subdivision, starting from Spike’s Road and running west past Easy Street);

• Installing a new Lilyhill pump station at $755,000.

Where will the money come from? Explained Daniels: “Rates cannot be used for expanding a system. Only for repairs and maintenance. Rainie (Torrance, a senior accountant for the city who works with grants, financing and other matters) is working on grants for repairs and upgrades with the state water board and regional water quality; we want to get as much of that $10 million list (as possible) covered by state and federal grants. Another alternative would be a bond.

“I don’t know what the total cost is at this point,” Daniels continued, “but am working with financial advisors and will bring it back to the next meeting. If we don’t repair (the water system) we will have more and more frequent problems. Water is life.”

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