Fairview launches well repair, looks at other upgrades
By Suzanne Dean
FAIRVIEW—Crews were on site at the Sammy Well in the southeast part of Fairview Monday, beginning the process of installing a new pump and getting the well working again.
But meanwhile, the city was mulling its water future, including the need for new water meters and the long-term need for a new water source—probably a new well.
“It’s looking good,” Mayor Dave Taylor said Monday. “We’re hoping the well will be back on possibly by the 11th…or at least by the 16th.
“The fix that we’re doing, we’re hoping to get several years out of it. Then slowly, over the next couple of years, we can plan for the long term.”
About a month ago, Fairview asked citizens to stop watering lawns after the pump in the Sammy Well failed. People complied, and water consumption dropped from a rating of “danger” to “green” or acceptable.
The city was concerned not only about not being able to meet water demand, including water for landscaping, but about the Sammy Well not being available as a backup source.
If either of the city’s other two water sources (its springs near Fairview Lakes or its Lower Well) failed while the Sammy Well was out, the city would not be able to deliver enough water to meet basic household needs, Taylor said during an interview June 22.
With the well down, the city did not have a sufficient supply to supplement the secondary irrigation system run by the Cottonwood-Gooseberry Irrigation Co., and with no culinary water backup, the city council voted June 21 to buy and install a new pump at the Sammy Well as soon as possible.
Yet all the officials at the council meeting, including Justin Jackson, city water superintendent, described the replacement pump as a Band-Aid. The Sammy Well has had maintenance problems over its 17-year life, and officials agreed they could not count on the well for the long-term future.
Discussion at the June 21 meeting also touched on other aspects of the town water system, starting with water meters.
In earlier council meetings, Jackson had reported that the city was delivering a lot more water than was reflected on the water bills going out to businesses and residents.
The reason? About two-thirds of the water meters in town are decades old and, based on the discrepancy between water being delivered and water being billed, the meters are not measuring household water consumption accurately.
And because the meters are not accurate, the city is not getting revenue it could use to operate and upgrade its water system.
“The first thing we need to do is to install new meters so we have an accurate billing,” Jackson told the city council.
To read the old water meters, a city staff member has to go on people’s property, get on hands and knees, and look a gauges on the meter itself, Jan Anderson, city recorder, explained.
Because of the labor involved, the city only reads meters every six months, and then bills people monthly based on the average at the last six-month reading.
Not only is meter reading labor intensive, and thus relatively costly, but people can go for six months with a leak and not be aware of the problem.
The new meters the city would install are “auto read.” An employee can drive down a street and read them with a hand-held device.
Nearly all of the electric meters in town are already auto-read meters. If water meters were also auto-read, the employee could read both water and power meters at the same time.
The city has been budgeting $30,000 per year for new meters. With that money, it has installed about 200 out of 600 total; replaced many old meters; and installed auto-read meters on new homes.
Taylor told the city council he had talked with Cache Valley Bank about borrowing $90,000, the amount he estimated it would cost to replace all of the meters at once. Cache Valley offered to make the loan at 3 percent.
But at the same city council meeting, Curt Ludvigson of Sterling, who works for the Utah Rural Water Association, briefed the council on possible grant sources for water improvements.
Ludvigson said Fairview might qualify for a WaterSmart grant, sometimes referred to as a “green money” grant, from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for water meters.
The WaterSmart program is designed to encourage water conservation by charging people for all the water they are using.
“It’s time to make the next move. It’s time to get everybody in” on new meters, Taylor said.
But before he asks the council to approve the bank loan, he wanted to find out if the city could qualify for a “green money” grant, he said.
Looking ahead, city officials know the city will need a new well. “We have a location in mind. We’ve done some work on it,” he said.
A very preliminary engineering estimate presented at the city council meeting put the cost of a new well at $800,000 to $1.2 million and the minimum time frame for completion at three years.
The question is how to pay for the new water source. Taylor said one-third of the residents of Fairview are on fixed incomes. One-third are under the age of 16. That essentially leaves the burden of financing big improvements such as a well on the one-third of residents who are of working age.
“The biggest fear our council has is raising fees,” he said.