2019 busy for Jasper utilities


JASPER — Facilitating the completion of a multi-million dollar waterline project, rehabilitating a water tank and pushing along the deconstruction of an old power plant — 2019 was busy for Jasper’s municipal utilities.

Bud Hauersperger, the city’s general utility manager, reflected on the eventful year in a Thursday phone interview with The Herald, during which he also looked ahead to the beginning of the next decade.

Perhaps the biggest endeavor the utilities led was the U.S. 231 water supply and pressure improvement project. The $4.6 million enterprise — $1.38 million in funding came from a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant — saw the replacement of a 10-inch, World War II-era waterline underneath the highway with a new, 12-inch main.

It was a big undertaking that spawned months of lane modifications along a sizeable chunk of the heavily-traveled thoroughfare. But the work was necessary. Hauersperger explained that years of truck traffic had taken a toll and caused breaks.

“The water main project, the challenge there was just to try to keep it going without disrupting traffic too much,” Hauersperger said. “And the contractor, I think, came up with some good ideas.”

These included uses a boring technique to install the new line, as opposed to slicing into the surface of the roads to lay the pipe.

“I didn’t hear a lot of complaints, which I really didn’t expect that,” Hauersperger said of the project. “I expected to be hearing a lot of complaints, but we didn’t really. At least I didn’t.”

Rehabilitation of the city’s south water tower should be completed this week, he said. That process involved sandblasting the interior and exterior of the structure, repainting it, and adding a mixing system inside the tank that “is gonna keep the water less stagnant, so you get better water quality by mixing it up,” Hauersperger said.

The deconstruction of the city’s power plant is also nearing completion. Hauersperger said a “short list of things that need to be done” remains, including the removal of equipment and lingering debris.

As he looked ahead to 2020, he pointed to new water audits that will have to be conducted per regulations, as well as completing asset management plans for all the utilities and a handful of new projects.

One of those projects involves the introduction of advanced meter infrastructure for city customers. Though it will take years to fully implement, AMI metering will speed up the readings of water, gas and electric meters.

“There’s a lot of potential for customer interface,” Hauersperger added. “Where you can look and see kind of how much energy you’re using at a particular time.”

It may take a while to get to that point, he said, but the system will also open up the potential for discovering and addressing leaks and outages faster than the current protocol. That will save resources and save customers money, he noted.

The supervisory control and data acquisition system at the city’s wastewater plant will be upgraded, and the lift station near Kellerville Road and Cathy Lane will be torn down and rebuilt in 2020.

Sometime in the first few months of the new decade, customers will also have the ability to begin paying their utility bills online with their credit cards. A fee will be applied, but Hauersperger said the offering should be a convenience for residents.

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