Van Buren officials plan to replace 115-year old lines

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Van Buren officials are preparing to make upgrades to seriously old infrastructure during the next few years.

According to Steve Defresne, director of municipal utilities, the city of Van Buren will apply for a $200,000 Arkansas Community and Economic Development Grant to help fund replacement of water lines first installed 115 years ago, in 1898.

"It still functions properly," Defresne said. "When it does break, the location of it is very, very difficult to get to for repair."

Breaks do not happen often along line, which is eight inches in diameter, Defresne said.

During the last year, the line only broke once and it required repairs twice during 2011, he said. But he added that when a break in the line occurs, repairs have not been simple.

"When it does (break), it's a major repair," he said. "The cost of a repair could be up to $4,000 or so to repair it in one break," he said. "But the replacement is not just about the repair. Part of the replacement is about supplying adequate water."

Van Buren Fire Chief Jerry McAdoo said replacement of the outdated waterline, which would increase the line to an 18-inch diameter, would increase the water supply to an area starting in the Lafayette and Knox Street neighborhood around Mt. Vista and extend into the industrial park area.

"It's going to give us a better water supply for that area for fire protection," he said.

McAdoo said the Insurances Safety Office (ISO) wanted upgrades to be done to the line and other facilities in the city's water system in order to maintain the city's current ISO rating, which helps determine homeowner and commercial property insurance rates.

The cost of upgrading the waterline is estimated at $810,000, according to Dufresne.

"What we're planning on is $200,000 in grant money and over the next couple of years we'll set aside $240,000 a year, which is what we get from city sales tax for capital improvements," he said. "On that third year, we'll pull the rest out of the capital improvements fund."

Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2015, Dufresne said, though he said plans could change depending on if or when the grant is approved.

"What I found out last night is it could possible be the fall or the first of 2014 (before we know the status of the application)," Dufresne said.

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Regardless of whether the city receives the grant, the project will move forward, he said.

"The project still needs to be done whether we get the grant or not. It's been on the plans longer than the grant has been there."

Defresne said the water line project was part of a three-part project that included spending about $1.3 million rehabilitating the water reservoirs behind the fire department on Mt. Vista Boulevard and installing a new $450,000 pump at the same site.

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