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If council messes up your water pressure will you pay to fix it?

This article is a call for you to help me find council members capable of critical thinking.  Before I get there let me explain the headline. 
 
Monday, council will vote to get started on the water pressure project (this is NOT the water softening project).  After the project is complete the average water pressure in this new pressure zone will be 80 psi [1].  The typical water pressure for a home in the United States is 40 to 45 psi [2].  Customers are required by Ohio Plumbing Code to install a water-pressure reducing valve if the water pressure to their house is above 80 psi [3].  If the average pressure in the new pressure zone is projected to be 80 psi then obviously some of those homes will require a pressure reducing valve.  A quick search of Lowes shows a price range of $70 to $120 for the hardware [4].  Have it installed by a plumber and there will be additional costs.
 
We do not know how many of our Huber Heights residents will have to pay to install this valve because this city does not have council members wise enough to support me when I ask staff to provide the kind of information needed to make good decisions.  So, while you read this keep in mind the reason I am writing today is because we need residents with critical thinking skills to step up and run for Council and for Mayor.  I give two examples below where council has recently failed you, so you can judge for yourself if your idea of council’s responsibility matches mine.  If we are on the same page, hopefully, we will be able to find five members of this community willing to step up and represent us properly. 
 
Water Pressure
 
Concerning the water pressure issue I have stressed two things we should know before going forward on spending this $2.4 million dollars.  First, I’ve asked for a real assessment of how many residents in this area have an issue with water pressure. The other information we need is to catalog the potential companies/businesses that we expect are interested in coming to this area.  We need to evaluate if they would benefit from higher water pressure and by how much, and then cost out how much it would be for them to fix the problem for their properties?   
 
The vast majority of the 75 to 100 people I have spoken to, understand intrinsically why knowing this information is important.  Who would spend $2.4 million dollars of tax payer money just to solve the problem of one person?  Maybe this council!
 
Council members may be having a problem understanding why it is important to find out how many homes are affected because of a natural human reaction of wanting to help a friend.  Watch the video of the last work session and you can see that a person, who is a friend of all council members, sent in a video of her faucet and the water was running pretty slow.  Does giving one example give you a good feeling about how extensive the problem is throughout the city?  How about six examples?  How about 60?  I can state definitively no member of council has identified 60 homes in this area that have this problem.
 
I know it is human nature to want to help your friends. If that is their objective, a quick internet search tells us that for about $900 a boost pump system can be installed in a house and the pressure raised.  During the last work session, someone did a back of the envelop guess on how extensive the issue is in this part of the city.  They provided no supporting reasoning but guessed that ¼ of the homes in this section had people who were dissatisfied with their water pressure.  A back of the envelop calculation tells us that these council members could fix their friend’s water pressure issue and all the other home owners who they guess might also have the problem for less than $400,000.  Or in other words a $2 million savings over the solution they plan to implement Monday [5]
 
The other reason given to promote the project is to help potential businesses avoid the cost of putting in a boost pump for their own property.  Remember we have been briefed that the current system has plenty of water for all fire suppression scenarios but some companies might have to put in a boost pump system as part of their building design.  With that added expense some people are worried this might prevent a business from locating here.  However, we have been given no solid information on how much one of these systems cost or how many potential businesses would need one.  A figure of $500,000 was thrown out as a potential cost but no information on what kind of business would need this type of system or how many of those businesses might be able to locate in this area.  If it is just two businesses, $1 million is lower than $2.4 million dollars.  In other words, we could save more than a million dollars if the city paid for all the resident’s and company’s boost pumps.  To be frank, it is unlikely I would support the city paying for these unless we had a solid business plan that showed the city would significantly benefit by providing this kind of business incentive.   Currently, this council does not know if there is a single business out there that is interested in using this incentive.  They do not know what that business would provide to the city or when it might be they would move in.  Yet, on Monday they are going to commit to getting this $2.4 million-dollar solution underway.
 
Council and Mayor’s roles
 
My personal commitment that I made to you while running for mayor was to make sure we got value for our tax dollars.  The pillar to make this happen is transparency.  There are other building blocks that I have been advocating for each of these past three years.  One of these are good read ahead materials. 
 
To qualify as good read ahead materials staff needs to provide enough information for council to make sound decisions.  Even if council does not read the material, that material needs to be available as justification for “trusting” staff.  I also advocate for publishing materials in advanced because this give those residents who are experts in their fields an opportunity to contribute to the city and provide feedback to council and staff before we spend money.  The other thing I want to see before spending money is that staff has looked at a number of different options to make sure our money is wisely spent.  I personally do not think that a formal RFP is required for every purchase but staff should be coming to us with multiple quotes or alternative solutions that were rejected. 
 
Payroll Software
 
On November 22, 2016 our finance director let council know of a desire to purchase finance and payroll software.  There was no read ahead and in fact the item was not even on the work session’s agenda.  He briefed that there was time to bring this to a work session and he could provide more details then.  This $65,000 purchase would be the follow-on software to software originally purchased many years before.

 




This vote is an example why I would find each of these council members as incapable of properly representing me as a resident and why I hope there are at least five residents that step up that are willing and capable of properly representing our interests starting in 2017.

 

The entire November 22, 2016 work session video can be found here on the City website.  The software discussion starts at 38:00 minutes into the video and lasts about 12 minutes.
 
 Back to the purpose of this article.  Now is the time for someone that desires to help serve the city to make the decision to run for council or mayor.  Petitions need to be filed in early Feb.  Think about it yourself and help convince your critical thinking neighbors and friends they need to step up too.  If you would like to talk to me more about the positions and the duties I am available and willing. 

Thanks

Tom McMasters
Mayor of Huber Heights

 
 
[1] North Zone Pressure Increase, “Once the north zone is isolated from the rest of the system, flow and pressure can be boosted to a hydraulic grade line that is sufficient for the critical fire flow requirements and typical daily operation. In the model this new HGL was determined to be 1, 160'. This will make the average pressure in the north pressure zone of 80 psi”  page 4 (5th of 10 in .pdf) of Technical Memorandum Water Modeling and Evaluation of a New North Pressure Zone North ofl-70 found in the read ahead of the Jun 21, 2016 Work Session
 
[2] The typical inlet water pressure to a home is about 40 to 45 psi. Normally, it should not exceed 60 psi. The pressure regulator is usually preset to 50 psi. Homeowners Clinic - Popular Mechanics Nov 15, 2006
 
[3] When the static pressure in your property is greater than or equal to 80 psi, Section 4101:3-604.8 of the Ohio Plumbing Code states "an approved water-pressure reducing valve conforming to ASSE 1003 with strainer shall be installed to reduce the pressure in the building water distribution piping to 80 psi (552 kPa) static or less." Over time, excessive pressure may damage plumbing fixtures in your property, cause noisy pipes, and possibly lead to leaking pipes. The installation of this valve is at the customer's expense.  Montgomery County Ohio Water Services FAQS under the “What is the range of water pressure in Montgomery County?”
[4] Wilkins 1-in Bronze Female In-Line Pressure Reducing Valve $73.97  Spring range 15 to 75 PSI (1/2-in- 1-1/4-in), 25 to 75 PSI (1-1/2-in, 2-in), Factory set at 50 PSI, No special tools required, Serviceable in-line  Lowes website  Note:  I could not tell from the webpage ad if this valve conforms to ASSE 1003. 
 
[5] I am not saying it is a council member’s job to spend tax payer money to fix a friend’s problem.  But if council believes that is appropriate, then spending less than $400,000 is a good compromise to a $2.4 million solution.  Especially since that solution will force some of their other friends to pay for a water pressure reduction valve.  I will point out that according to documents provided by our engineer there are no sections in this part of town that show a water pressure lower than the national average of 40 to 45 psi.  I also point out that customers of Montgomery County Water that perceive their pressure is not high enough or that have individual houses with slightly lower pressure would fall under a policy that according to the  Montgomery County FAQ is -- "the Sanitary Engineering (now Environmental Services) Department does not guarantee a fixed pressure…" If the pressure is inadequate to provide enough flow to plumbing fixtures in your property, then a booster pump and pressure tank may be installed at the customer's expense.”  

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