Alabama Utility Takes Steps Towards Public Internet

(TNS) — Decatur Utilities took a step toward a public fiber-optic broadband Internet system this week when it hired a consultant to conduct a financial analysis of the project.

It was one of several expenses the council approved Monday, including replacing a 64-year-old sewage lift station.

The city’s Public Utilities Board approved the hiring of Uptown Services, Boulder, Colo., for $56,000 to perform an Internet financial analysis.


Nine firms received requests for proposals, and Uptown was one of eight firms to respond. Electric manager Glen Boyles said they chose Uptown based on an interview process and feedback from references.

Uptown Services focuses primarily on the feasibility and planning of municipal and public energy systems, Boyles said. The analysis should take about four months.

Board member Tom Counts pushed the Internet proposal earlier this year, saying he thought DU could provide faster and cheaper service than private carriers and that the service could include television and phone service.

Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp. is in the process of building a high-speed Internet system that it says will eventually be available to 43,000 customers in Lawrence and Morgan counties. As of last month, the service was being provided to more than 2,000 customers, and the company hopes to have 22,000 subscribers once construction is complete. — Other projects

The Utilities Board also voted Monday to move forward with replacing the 64-year-old Wastewater Lift Station 7, which would be one of the most expensive projects with $29.16 million in projects pre-approved for fiscal year 2023. Tom Cleveland, Water Resources manager, estimated the project at 1604 Fifth Street NW could cost between $6.5 million and $7.6 million.

Lift Station 7 was built in 1958 and upgraded with new pumps and controls in 1980.

“The lift station is operating beyond its useful life,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland said the project, expected to take 18 months, also includes replacing about 1,500 feet of 18-inch clay gravity main and 1,600 feet of 10-inch cast iron main. The service life of the new cable car station will be an estimated 40 years.

The replacement of Lift Station 7 is part of an ongoing plan to improve the company’s sewer system to minimize sanitary sewer overflows that have been a problem in the city. The plan is funded by a $165 million bond and funded by a series of increases in customers’ monthly access fees.

The monthly access fee for Decatur Utilities residential customers with a typical 5/8-inch meter rose to $26 in early 2022 and will increase by an additional $4 per month in 2023.

DU also plans to spend $1 million to replace the 5 cable car station, located near 14th Street Southeast and behind Peoples Bank, popularly called “The Round Bank.”

The Utilities Board voted to move forward on replacing 40 wastewater drives at a cost of $350,000. They are planning to replace the actuators which are 25 years old. The works should last about 18 months.

Actuators direct wastewater flows from the water filter to treatment wells, where the water is disinfected before entering the distribution system, Cleveland said.

The Energy Board voted to retain contractors for the engineering design, bidding services, installation, project management and construction inspection of the Clark Springs Manifold Replacement Phase 3. The replacement will cost $3.5 million to $4.1 million. The project involves replacing and enlarging about 4,800 linear feet of 18-inch PVC sewer pipe in the Clark Springs area that runs along Duncansby Way Southwest.

DU Board of Trustees approves hiring of Pugh Wright McAnally Inc. for design, permitting and bidding services for the Clark Spring Project at a cost not to exceed $129,890.

In Phase 2, DU replaced the pickup line from Academy Sports going west under Danville Road.

“We’ll pick up Phase 3 there and go west to the Dunbarton end,” said Jimmy Evans, operations manager for gas, water and wastewater. “Then we’ll have the collector system scaled up and ready for any growth in the area that might soon occur.”

A sewer collector connects to numerous laterals and branch drains from an area of ​​several hundred acres or a particular neighborhood or housing estate. It then carries the sewage to larger trunk sewer lines, lift stations, or to a nearby water quality treatment center.

The project will minimize sewer overflows and increase capacity for future development, Evans said.

Earlier this month, the City Council pre-approved $29.16 million in capital projects for fiscal year 2023 for Decatur Utilities, including sewer main replacement and upgrades to gas, water and electrical systems.

Each year, the council pre-approves planned DU projects expected to cost $100,000 or more.

Projects will be presented to the DU board throughout the year, and if the bids go over budget, DU CEO Ray Hardin said they will go back to the board to approve additional costs.

DU officials said the projects will mostly replace aging parts of its four utilities.

The largest expense planned for this fiscal year is the $10.7 million replacement of approximately 80,000 linear feet of aging, defective sewer pipe in the DU collection system. The project involves the replacement of about 1,500 associated sewer services. — Electric, gas systems

Boyles said DU plans to spend $175,000 on substation equipment and $400,000 on transformers as part of an ongoing 4-kilovolt to 12-kilovolt line conversion that reduces energy losses in the system.

“Every year we try to replace one of our oldest substations,” Boyles said. “We recently retired four of our oldest substations. We will need to replace two more substations. Replacing the older transformer helps maintain our safety and reliability.”

One area DU remains to convert is on the north side of town next to the river in the Market Street-Rhodes Ferry Park area.

“We’re going to focus on transforming that area over the next few years,” Boyles said. “Hopefully by 2026 we will have completed all the conversion.”

Evans said the company has replaced several miles of its cast iron and ductile lines in the gas system in recent years and now has about a mile left. He estimated it would cost $450,000.

“That’s something that federal regulators have really forced us to do to get these lines out of our system with the potential to leak,” Evans said.

He said replacements are planned in the areas of Lynnwood Drive Southeast, Valley Park Drive Northwest and Eighth Avenue Southwest.

DU plans to install a $115,000 fire alarm system at the Gas/Water/Wastewater 10th Avenue building, where a fire destroyed engine rooms and two trucks on Dec. 9, 2021, costing $804,099. The carts were used for sewer inspections.

“This system will alert our (Morgan County 911) dispatch as soon as they see any smoke so the fire department can respond,” Evans said.

One of the bigger expenditures will be a $1.2 million connector in the Red Bank Road area. Evans said the project will “close the loop on the outer edges of our gas system in the Burningtree area. It increases reliability to about 600 customers in that area. Right now, if something goes down in that area, we’re going to have 600 customers without service.”

Cleveland said DU plans to spend $500,000 to improve the chemicals and pumps building, which is part of the water system.

“We have some deterioration on the inside of that building,” Cleveland said. “We want to blast and paint the walls and replace some doors and hardware and some electrical components.”

The raw and final water pump rebuild/replacement is expected to cost $175,000.

“Every year we try to rebuild or replace one or two pumps,” Cleveland said.

DU has earmarked $125,000 to install pumps to boost water pressure at various water tank locations, he said.

“They’re constantly changing drinking water regulations, and these pumps keep the water turned over and fresh,” Cleveland said.

Evans said they plan to spend $675,000 on aging cast iron water mains that are beyond their service life in the northwest and parts of the city.

DU will rehabilitate about 320 shafts at a cost of $365,000. Evans said the work will help minimize sanitary sewer overflows. It will also provide protection against corrosive sewer gases.

© 2022 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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