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Chrisney council keeping tabs on water-infrastructure

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By DON STEEN

Staff Writer

reporter@spencercountyjournal.com

 

CHRISNEY – Water infrastructure in small towns across America often operates unseen until something breaks, at which point repair and maintenance costs can mount quickly.

Chrisney officials have been keen to stave off such catastrophes by keeping close tabs on all aspects of the water system and the challenges its likely to face over its lifetime. Even then, certain expenses will ultimately prove inevitable, and small towns have to face those realities with or without support from the state or federal government.

At last month’s meeting, Utilities Superintendent John Graham raised an issue with the town’s 20-year-old water tower, advising that the next regular inspection was only two years away. Though diligent upkeep throughout its lifespan has kept it in relatively good working order, he noted that some faults are to be expected when the time comes and even modest repairs could cost more than $100,000.

In anticipation, Graham has been studying various grant opportunities that might help offset these maintenance costs. Thus far, he advised that state and federal grant opportunities for these particular projects might be sparse. Instead, the town may have to rely on low-interest loans from the State Revolving Fund or the United States Department of Agriculture.

Graham added, however, that maintenance is not the only potential expense on the horizon. The town’s water utility has been struggling to keep chlorine residuals in its water supply up to proper safety standards, a task made difficult by the nature of the business itself.

In any large body of water, a process of stratification is to be expected without some outside force counteracting it. Colder water becomes denser and sinks to the bottom, while warmer water rises. This essentially segregates the water into different layers, which can frustrate efforts to keep chlorine levels uniform throughout a confined water source.

Though water stratification is most commonly associated with lakes and ponds, Chrisney’s water tower holds a respectable 100,000 gallons of water in its own right, more than enough for this force of nature to take effect.

The utility takes measures to bring the water supply back into balance by flushing hydrants to bring the level of residual chlorine back into balance, but Graham hopes to seek out upgrades that might accomplish this in a more reliable manner.

“I think we’re going to need to be proactive looking ahead to this,” said Graham.

He hopes that state agencies might look more fondly on necessary upgrades than routine maintenance needs, and plans to keep working with grant administrators to stress the needs in Chrisney and other small communities facing these challenges.

It may be years before any of these issues come to a head, but the council agreed efforts should begin early, as any successful grant would be predicated on a lengthy survey process. Council president Neal Dougan advised that proactive measures had served the town well in the past, and with sufficient planning the board should be able to handle any issues that come down the pipe.

“We’ll just keep moving forward with it,” said Dougan.

In other business, Graham is exploring the possibility of getting the town’s parks department certified as a non-profit organization, which would allow it to hold fundraisers and apply for grants. Clerk-Treasurer Kim Litkenhus advised this would not affect the town’s ability to appropriate funds to the department.

The council is also seeking individuals to serve on the Chrisney Town Plan Commission, which is currently missing several members. Dougan hopes volunteers will step forward to help reconstitute the board. Those interested may inquire at Chrisney Town Hall.