Lack of infrastructure maintenance results in costly lesson

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CAVE CREEK – During the May 19 town council meeting, Utilities Manager David Prinzhorn apologized for two agenda items which, like items he and Town Engineer Wayne Anderson brought forward the previous month, required council to approve-after-the-fact expenditures totaling $44,041.

Prinzhorn said this was a continuance of last month’s exercise before he fully understood the rules and procedures.

When Mayor Vincent Francia asked if these were the last of that “exercise,” Prinzhorn said they were.

The first item was for emergency repairs to approximately 40’ of the wastewater collection system pipeline near Linda Drive.

He said the type of pipe they had to replace should never be used for sewer. The work also included repairs to a corroded manhole.

Francia questioned a few items on the invoice and asked if the town could not have used its own manpower to make the repairs.

Prinzhorn said they do not have the expertise to deal with manhole corrosion.

Councilman Reg Monachino asked, “Had regular maintenance occurred, would this have been discovered two to three years ago?”

Prinzhorn responded, “Certainly.”

“We have to pay our bills,” said Councilman Ernie Bunch, whose motion to approve the $19,473 expenditure carried unanimously.

Prinzhorn provided council members with a PowerPoint printout titled, “CAP Intake Improvements” in conjunction with the second expenditure of $24,568, which indicated he received notification from Central Arizona Project (CAP).

The CAP notice addressed repairs that needed to be made on the town’s pumping equipment, which included repairing the packing on three pumps, removing or relocating electrical conduits sitting in oily water, removing standing water on concrete pad, recertifying ASME Pressure Vessell on site every five years, securing and locking all electrical controls, and installing “Arc Flash” warning labels on electrical cabinets.

Prinzhorn noted the town ordered two new pumps and was refurbishing one of the pumps to have on hand as a spare.

He said the CAP notice was received after the new pumps were ordered.

Although Prinzhorn did not know how old the pumps were, the photos he presented reflected maintenance had been neglected for quite some time.

In performing an internal evaluation of the on-site field conditions, Prinzhorn noted the facility and equipment were 27 years old.

There was bad stainless steel shaft warping and shaft scoring causing excessive seal leakage.

He said there were old valves that were either inoperable or ready to fail and with summer coming that could become a problem.

Prinzhorn said there’s a 60-day backlog to secure replacement equipment and the town had no backup pumps/motors if the system were to fail.

That was why he was refurbishing one to keep as a spare.

Because the town relies primarily on CAP water with emergency water storage that could last up to two and a half days, if there were a pump failure, Prinzhorn said the town would have to implement its Drought Plan 2 and voluntary water restrictions.

If it became necessary to implement Drought Plan 3, he said it would involve rationing by cutting back the water pressure, asking businesses to cut back on hours and other somewhat severe measures.

CAP water is delivered to the town via a 12.5 mile-long pipeline that is 16 inches in diameter at a rate of 2,000 to 2,500 gallons per minute with four pumping stations to meet the 650-foot vertical lift.

During public comment, Everett Bell commended Prinzhorn for his work but said one thing that didn’t get mentioned was there were no purchase orders utilized in the process. He said, “I hope this gets rectified in the future.”

Prinzhorn said, “It did kinda go through the process.”

Ron Iverson stated the town was being faced with “extraordinary expense from lack of maintenance,” and asked council to get a newsletter out to people because citizens deserve to know where this money goes.

Bruce Beinick thanked Prinzhorn for developing a plan and asked him to clarify some information about spare pumps.

He said documents such as the one he passed out to council are being added to the website.

Councilman Charles Spitzer moved to approve the item and said he was disturbed the lack of maintenance over the last several years was not discovered until now.

He said, “The pictures are pretty disturbing.”

Bunch, who seconded the motion, reiterated, “We have to pay our bills and do maintenance.”

The motion passed unanimously.

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