By CAT ROBERTSON
The Arrowbear Park County Water District was recently featured in an article in Municipal Sewer & Water magazine, outlining its ability to tackle a big job with a small staff.
The article, entitled “A Mountain of Might,” highlighted the district’s recent accomplishments despite its small size. The article laid out the district’s can-do attitude in tackling large infrastructure projects using their small staff of full-time employees, money-saving innovative ideas such as cast-in-place manhole raising, and providing an abundance of high-quality drinking water for theirs and neighboring communities.
The utility company, which was founded in 1953, produces more than 48 million gallons of water per year. It has only five full-time employees — three field technicians, an administrative assistant and a general manager — and is in the process of replacing the last four miles of its 12 miles of two-inch steel waterlines with six- and eight-inch C900 PVC.
Norman Huff, Arrowbear Park County Water District’s (APCWD) general manager, is overseeing the project and is happy with the progress they’re making. He said they began replacing the pipes about five years ago and completion is expected in about eight years.
It was time to replace the steel pipes with something more durable that wouldn’t rust. The size “was OK for the houses,” he explained, “but not for the fire hydrants.”
Huff said they hire two temporary employees in the summer for special projects to add to their three full-time field technicians. That’s helping the utility work on laying the new waterline while keeping up with their regular duties such as reading meters and repairing leaks.
The team’s full-time members include Paul Miller, the field operations supervisor; Jason Weber, service person III; Todd Tviede, utility worker; administrative secretary Caroline Rimmer; and Norman Huff, general manager.
Huff noted the crew’s goal is to “lay two 20-foot sticks a day of the new pipeline, or a total 40 feet per day.”
That means digging a trench, connecting new pipeline to where the previous installation left off, then doing backfill and compacting the soil and covering it with road plates. They come back to that spot the next day and continue with the next 20-foot trench.
If they were to contract out the work, rather than do it themselves, Huff said they would spend $200 per foot. It’s costing them only about $80 per foot to do the work in-house. He also estimated that it could cost up to $400 per foot, which could cost the district almost $9 million.
It is definitely a big job for a little crew, but they’re chipping away at it bit by bit and steadily making progress every day between mid-April through mid-October. That’s when it’s time to call it quits due to weather issues and come back to it the following year.
On top of replacing the old two-inch steel pipes, the APCWD is also busy raising manholes to keep the roads level after they are paved. The team’s ingenuity has helped them overcome hurdles by creating their own tools to complete the job.
It would typically cost $2,000 to $2,500 per manhole to hire outside contractors to come in and raise each of the 20 to 25 manholes that are reset each year, but their resourcefulness has paid off and saved them big bucks. It’s only costing the district the price of 10 to 12 bags of concrete plus the cost of manpower for each manhole. That’s a lot less than $2,000 to $2,500 a pop.
Huff and his team of mighty mountain men (and woman) are conquering jobs that wouldn’t be considered much by bigger districts with a larger staff and more money to spend each year, but Huff is adamant about getting the job done in the best, most cost-effective way he can.
“We try to be good stewards of the people’s money,” Huff commented. “Sometimes government entities lose track of whose money it is, with lavish offices and contracting out. We try to stay community-based and do as we would want others to do with our money.”
Some information for this article was taken from Erik Gunn’s article “A Mountain of Might” in the July 2019 issue of Municipal Sewer & Water magazine.