Regarding the bagged fire hydrants…
I feel that I owe the residents of the Village of Union Springs a better explanation than the one that was published in the Auburn Citizen.
While I was out of state, I received a call from a reporter at the Citizen. I can assure you that in the quite long conversation we had that I went into a great deal more detail than, apparently, their print space would allow. This may be a bit long but I will attempt to clarify the information I relayed to said reporter, and more.
I started with the best historical information that I could provide. I also pointed out that I have only been Mayor for 1 year and 7 months. As the mayor I inherited all of the wonderful aspects and assets of our charming community. I also got the warts. And as I have stated in other writings, we have an aging infrastructure which includes our municipally owned hydrants. I don’t have the details (and wouldn’t have given names), but I have to believe that the people who gave me the information as to how our hydrant system got to where it is today, are credible.
In mid-2016 I was told that our hydrants situation was a combination of not knowing which hydrants worked and of the fact that our hydrants hadn’t been exercised in years (making it harder to prioritize repair/replacement). This was a surprise to me as I have lived in small villages/towns all of my life and I know how, and by who, the hydrants are exercised. The information that I received at that time was there had been a previous dispute between the Village and the Springport Fire Department and that the fire department stopped exercising the hydrants within the village. I have been told a couple of versions as to why, but it didn’t matter as we as a Village are responsible as owners of the water supply and in this case the hydrants.
I was both naïve and did not ask how we could make the exercising process work without the cooperation of the fire department. But we did start working on an aggressive schedule of replacement. As there had been few hydrant replacements in the recent years before I had joined the Board, we decided that swapping 3 hydrants out a year would be a good start. Please remember that each hydrant replacement costs over $3000 each and involves our whole Public Works crew as well as the shutting down of some water service. Each also involves coordinating the filling of our municipal water towers and the work takes the better part of a full day. We scheduled and budgeted for this process to start in 2017, again within my first full year.
And then there was a fire at the SDA Academy!
I did not go to the fire, but I received many reports from both the SDA staff and our Village Code Officer. The Village also offered whatever help we could to their community. I have never been a firefighter so I let the local volunteers and professionals do their job. Unfortunately there was a village hydrant near the fire that they could not make operational. And while they stated that it did not cause major problems in the context of the fire suppression itself, it certainly raised red flags for all of us.
This started a domino effect in how we as a Village determined our next move(s) in our long range plans. It apparently triggered a new plan for the Fire Department also. They (unknown to me) began exercising our hydrants starting on the north end of the village. Again out of the first three they worked on, there was one that was inoperable, and they stopped there. The Chief also sent an email asking what steps we were taking to resolve these problems. We responded by replacing the unit across from the High School and proceeded to exercise (or attempt to) all of the remaining hydrants, throughout the village. We found 14 that we were not able to open, or were not yet comfortable attempting to force open.
We cataloged them all in a list and forwarded that to the Chief. Because not everyone could identify which ones we could not open, he suggested we put an out-of-order bag over each of the 14, which we did.
That is the story of the bagged hydrants. But there is more. There are 54 hydrants within the Village. Of the 14 that are bagged we know that 4 are totally inoperable. There are 10 which we will slowly work to pry open and hopefully not break. Of these all of the 10 may work or maybe only some of them. The problem is of opening one which then cannot be closed.
And lastly we have been working with our Engineers (MRB Group) to come up with a short term and long term plan for all of our earlier mentioned infrastructure. That is Water, Sewer, Streets, Equipment, Sidewalks and Hydrants. As I have said before this will be a long project and an expensive one. We are working on a quicker fix for the hydrants that include putting insertion vales as shut offs for all of our aging and problem units. Some of them are older models and should be replaced with newer, more efficient ones.
Now let me address the article in the Citizen. The most important problem that I had with it was the title. There is no conflict between the Chief and myself. We may have conflicting views of the solution and timelines, but as I do not personally know the Chief there can be no “conflict”. I respect the work that our (and all) of the volunteer fire department do. And I (we) believe that safety is a priority. Newspapers write headline to sell papers. In this case I gave the Citizen much of what I have written here and as I mentioned before, maybe they didn’t have room. But their article left out enough to support the headline and I find that disingenuous.
Village of Union Springs
There is a Public Hearing on Nov. 21, 2017 @ 6:05pm at the Village Office re: Rental Properties.
Many people in Union Springs rent their homes/camps out. Very seldom, but sometimes this causes problems with excessive noise, traffic, encroachment, etc. As a community without a police force we often have to find alternative ways to regulate problems. As such, we are seeking to enact a Rental Registry.
The Village understands the value of lakefront and other rental properties. Our hope is not to make a punitive regulation, but to assure everyone in our community that should there be a problem, (one time or on-going) that there is a responsible person locally to take care of the complaint. And to do this in a timely manner.
Our registry has no cost at this time. It is simply to have a name and contact number for each rental property. However, if we do not get responsible voluntary compliance, rest assured the Village will look at other ways to protect our citizens from problem property owners/renters.
While this rental registry is not specifically about Springport Cove, it is a direct result of public concern in that area.
Mayor Bud Shattuck
In a follow-up to my blog on the water main break and emergency protocol, I find now is a good time to discuss other long term issues that the Village faces.
As you hear from President Trump, Gov. Cuomo and all of our Federal and State officials, the United States as a whole has aging infrastructure. The Village of Union Springs has this same problem. That means water, sewer, streets, sidewalks, etc. may be in need of repair or replacement at any time. The Village Trustees and all of the Village staff have been having frank discussions about the cost and time frames for making sure the critical needs of our community infrastructure gets the attention it deserves.
I must be upfront about the costs. Major repair/replacement projects such as the water valves, fire hydrants and sewer lines will be expensive. For anyone who has heard me talk about these problems or attended one of our board meetings, then my projections of $10-$20, million dollars over a ten year period may not be a surprise. That being said not everything is a critical need and ten years is a long time. Some repairs will not be done in my lifetime, others need immediate attention.
Let me talk first about what you can see. The village owns (54) fire hydrants. The hydrants have been installed various times by need and water supply. Some are beyond their useful life and no repair or replacement parts exist. Other may or may not have proper shut offs. The Village Department of Public Works (DPW) has opened or tried to open and operate all of our hydrants. In some cases this was not possible or feasible. As you may note we have “bagged” those hydrants for now. Over the past fifteen months we have replaced four hydrants as part of a program to get all of them working properly. But we are behind on this project as they were not regularly maintained for several years.
Now let’s talk about what you can’t see. When something goes wrong like the water main break last month everyone is affected. Some of our water infrastructure is very old and susceptible to failure. Some is newer and this is also subject to these possible problems. We need and you deserve valves that open and shut properly. This is essential in emergencies and for general repairs.
And finally the repair, replacement or building of sidewalks in the village will be a central issue as the A.J. Smith School repairs/remodel is completed and many more of our much younger children will be walking to school. We have some good sidewalks, some not so good, some slate, and some non-existent. This situation is unacceptable for our children, our senior population and everyone. The village has a fiscal problem that must be addressed.
So how do we fix this? And how do we afford it? First we will work with our engineering firm, MRB Group to assess and prioritize our needs. After cost and timelines are established we will contact our state and federal representatives to find what incentives and financial support is out there. And finally we will apply for all of the help we can get through low cost loans, matching grants, government support and gifts that we can. Hopefully, the eligibility for a small community will allow for this much needed help, before it becomes a crisis.
As we move forward, we realize that the problems will not be fixed overnight. And we (the Board and Staff) cannot do this alone. We will need community involvement and support.
Mayor Bud Shattuck