Goshen City Council set to tackle east side water pressure woes
May 18--GOSHEN -- After decades of talk but little action, it appears a solution could finally be on the way for the water pressure issues on the city's east side.
Jim McKee, president of the Goshen City Council, broached the subject during the privilege of the floor portion of Tuesday's council meeting, noting that he feels 30 years of relative inaction is a cycle that needs to be broken.
"We've had this problem with East Goshen water for about 30 years, and whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, everybody has kicked the ball down the road," McKee said of the situation. "Over my lifetime I've seen three people die in house fires out there -- which were not a result of water by the way -- but it's certainly a warning that it could have been. I just think that it's time that the city will do something about it."
According to McKee, the primary issue with the east side's water pressure woes can be traced back to an old water main in the area that is too small. Further compounding the issue is that water has to be pumped up a hill to reach the east side community.
"Where the problem comes in out there is you have 12-inch and 6-inch supply lines, and you don't have to be an engineer to figure out if you have 12 inches coming in, and it goes down to 6, and then it goes back up to 12... There's a problem," McKee said of the piping.
While the area's water pressure is generally considered adequate to service typical residential uses, such as showers and washing machines, one area that has come up again and again as a concern over the years is fire protection, McKee said.
As currently designed, the system provides water pressure from 40 pounds per square inch at the top of the Lincoln Avenue hill to 75 psi at the bottom of the hill with a flow of approximately 75 gallons per minute -- which is strong enough for residential use -- though it falls far short of the recommended 500 gallons per minute flow for residential fire protection, according to information from the city.
Given this pressure limitation, the hydrants in the area can produce enough water to fight a fire, but pumping it out could drop the water pressure below 20 pounds per square inch. At that point, backflow could occur in the line, which according to state code requires that a boil order be issued.
Several remedies for the water pressure issue have been explored by the city over the years, one of which involves installing a larger-diameter water main and a variable-speed booster station that would fluctuate based on demand. A second option researched involves looping a line at Zollinger Road and Middlebury Street south, east and then back south to the east end of the hilltop line. According to the city, both projects would likely top $1 million to complete, if not more.
According to McKee, the money issue has been the city's primary barrier to pulling the trigger on the project, though the conversation turned slightly heated Tuesday when McKee floated the assumption that perhaps the project would be considered more of a priority if it weren't located on the city's east side -- an area generally considered one of the lower-income sections of the city.
"I hate to say this too, but I'm not sure if it was in a different area of town whether we wouldn't have a little more urgency," McKee said. "That's a little jaded, but nevertheless, the people out there are paying the same sewer rates, the same water rates that everybody else in town is paying."
That assumption didn't sit well with Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman.
"I respectfully take offense to the comment of that area of town being ignored because of who lives there," Stutsman said in response to McKee's statement. "For me, I take offense to that, because I look at this entire town the same. I want to do the best we can everywhere."
Continuing on with the money discussion, McKee suggested that the mayor and council look to the city's Major Moves fund as a potential source of funding for the project, noting that the fund has about $2.4 million available for use that to his recollection has not yet been promised to any other projects to date.
"We have money, the city does, in our local Major Moves (fund)," McKee said. "There is toll road money that is still there -- and I don't think you have to spend it because you have it -- but I can't think of a more worthy project."
In 2006, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels leased the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years in exchange for an up-front payment of $3.8 billion. Those funds in turn where dispersed to numerous Indiana communities, including Goshen, to cover the cost of transportation projects through a plan known as Major Moves.
"It's good to have a Rainy Day fund, and it's good to have backup money, but what better could we do for the safety of the people in Goshen?," McKee asked of his funding suggestion. "I'm a big believer that our number one job as a council is the safety of the people in Goshen, whether it's the police department, the fire department, water and sewer... I think it's a priority."
Councilwoman Julia Gautsche agreed.
"I think when we first got that money they envisioned it would be for road and transportation projects because it was coming from the toll road. But I could be convinced to use it for a project like this," Gautsche said.
Stutsman said he would be fine with using the Major Moves funding for such a project, but would first like to touch base with Dustin Sailor, director of public works for the city, to establish a time line for when the city's engineering department might have time to launch such a project.
"I would like to look back and kind of see how soon can we get to this with staff time, getting it designed, that type of thing, and then also just double checking to make sure we haven't committed any of those funds to potentially be used for projects that are going right now, which I don't believe we have," Stutsman said. "So I would say the next steps, if the council is amenable to using some of the money, is we get with Dustin Sailor in Utilities and find out what those next steps are and how quickly can it move."
Given the engineering department's current workload, Stutsman suggested beginning that conversation sometime next month, to which the council agreed.
Follow John on Twitter at @jkline_TGN