Watertown slated to complete $6.6 million in water projects this year

Jan. 7—WATERTOWN — Plans are moving forward to spend $6.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding on nine water main projects that will replace piping that dates back more than 100 years.

The work is billed as the city's largest ever investment in water main projects. The city has mostly overcome national supply chain issues that hampered efforts during last year's construction season.

City engineer Michael Delaney said this week that work is expected to start this spring, maybe March or April, depending on the weather. "We're ready to roll," he said.

Work is slated for sections of Barben/Holcomb/Bugbee streets; Division Street; East Street Main; Henry/Grant streets; Ohio Street; Pratt Street; Sherman Street; Thompson Street; and Winslow Street.

Engineering work will be completed by the end of February and then the city will go out to bid on the projects, he said.

Once completed, up to 20,102 feet, or 3.8 miles of new steel pipe will be installed.

But last summer, acquiring enough piping to get all of that work done was a major hurdle for the city. Those issues mostly have been resolved, Mr. Delaney said.

The water main projects vary in size and cost, with preliminary projections from $200,000 to $1.4 million.

In a typical year, maybe one or two of these projects would get done, but the ARPA money is allowing the city to do all of that work in a short amount of time.

The city received about $22 million in ARPA funding last year of which $6 million will pay for the nine projects.

According to city data, there have been 66 water main breaks over the years in the areas that are being updated.

If all goes well, it should take just one construction season to get the projects completed.

Instead of relying on just one engineering firm to get all that work done, the city is working with four companies on project design, he said.

They are Barton and Loguidice, GYMO Engineering, the GHD Group and Aubertine and Currier.

So far, the city has spent about $753,000 in obtaining different kinds of piping and small fittings that will be used to get the project completed.

That's compared to about $20,000 that was delivered to the city during the height of the national supply shortage last summer.

But the city is still having difficulty in obtaining enough 10-inch ductive iron piping for the nine projects, Mr. Delaney said.

Municipalities across the country were also experiencing the same kinds of supply chain issues to acquire supplies for their public works projects, he said.

The city's engineering office has inventoried the supplies to make sure it knows what it has in its stored.

Ferguson Waterworks, Syracuse was the low-bidder to supply the piping to the city.

This past year, the city experienced numerous water breaks in locations throughout the city. The projects are expected to prevent many of those kind of water main breaks in the future.

The work includes replacing about 5,000 feet of transite piping along sections of five city streets — or just a fraction of that type of pipe that remains under city streets.

That kind of piping easily disintegrates and causes water main breaks.

Transite piping, or asbestos-cement pipe, was commonly used during the mid-1900s in water distribution systems, but its manufacture was phased out during the 1980s.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix agreed there's a lot of work to get done, but the city has the time to finish it all before a federal mandated deadline.

The city is required to have ARPA construction contracts in place by the end of 2024 and for projects to be finished by Dec. 31, 2026, he said.

ARPA funding also will be used for $4.2 million in improvements at Thompson Park, $1 million for Zoo New York at the park, to help pay for downtown streetscape project and other planned projects, Mr. Mix said.