The City of O’Fallon has had 42 water main breaks so far this year, but according to Chris Horvath, the city’s water and sewer project manager, that’s not an unusual number.
O’Fallon’s problem comes from aging cast-iron pipes that were installed in the 1950s and 1960s. “We’re not the only municipality around here with that issue,” he said.
The city has a 20-year plan to replace the 170 miles of water mains in the city, about 40 miles of which are the old cast-iron pipes. The plan has prioritized the mains to be replaced by the amount of risk for failure, with the Forest Park area in north O’Fallon the first on the list for repairs.
Financing the replacement is, of course, another problem.
Horvath presented three options to the O’Fallon City Council at last week’s meeting, saying that the city needed a plan that would function well into the future for the replacement of the city’s water mains.
One option would be to issue $8 million in bonds to address the worst eight miles of pipe, but that’s not a long-term solution, Horvath said.
A second option would be to continue with the current plan, which is a $1 million per year budget that would use contractors to replace about a mile per year. “It’s a reasonable way to get things done,” he said.
The third option would be to have the city hire a four-person water main replacement crew, whose job would only be to replace mains. “It’s a little easier to manage this in-house than to hire a contractor,” Horvath said. This option would also require about $600K in start-up costs to purchase equipment and vehicles. The hope is that the crew could get one mile of mains replaced the first year, and two miles each year after that. Annual cost would be about $1.1 million.
City staff recommended the third option.
Councilman Jeff Kuehn said he was in favor of the city hiring a dedicated crew. “It sounds like the most cost-effective. We’d get the most miles per dollar.” The rest of the council agreed with him.
“I’m ready to get this going,” Horvath said.