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TMCNet:  Kalispell aims to track water, sewer systems

[March 25, 2013]

Kalispell aims to track water, sewer systems

Mar 24, 2013 (Daily Inter Lake - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- An asset management program to track infrastructure repairs and maintenance promises to give Kalispell officials better knowledge about the condition of the city's extensive water and sewer systems.

"Kalispell has grown over the last 10 years," Public Works Director Susie Turner said about the initiative. "It's a step the city needed to take to start keeping track of what we are doing and to review it." Public works staffers are making their way through implementation and training phases, but the Cityworks software should be up and running this spring. The $72,476 up-front cost is being split among the water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer funds, three underground utilities the program will track.

And there is a lot to track.

Kalispell has 115 miles of gravity sewer mains, 19 miles of force sewer mains and 43 lift stations with pumps and motors that require regular inspection and maintenance. Mixed in are 132 miles of water mains, four water storage tanks, 10 water wells and 34 miles of storm sewer.

Over the last decade, dozens of miles of lines have been added to the water and sanitary sewer systems and their needs keep crews busy.

Last year crews replaced several lift station pumps and motors, inspected 5,000 feet of sewer lines, ran a router through 9,600 feet of sewer lines and cleaned and flushed about 12,000 feet of sewer grease lines.

They also repaired 28 water main and service line leaks, repaired 50 water service shutoff valves, replaced three aging hydrants and flushed 137 other hydrants to remove air and clean dead ends.

Keeping track of when, where, why and how maintenance work is done from year to year is a daunting but important job.

Joe Schrader, Kalispell's utility management superintendent, remembers a time not long ago when none of that maintenance or repair work was even recorded on paper. "We always called it the Rolodex," he said, tapping his head. "Well, when you put something into the Rolodex, after a while something goes out of the Rolodex." But even when that maintenance work is recorded on paper, it leaves staffers to comb through large files in search of information. This asset management software ties directly in with Kalispell's geographical information system and its digital maps for all three utilities.

Crews will enter into the program any maintenance work, repairs or replacements they do as well as the cost of the work. That will build a running tally of data -- complete with handy details about thousands of system components -- available with the push of a couple of keys on their laptop computer in the field.

That data will help highlight portions of lines and parts of the systems that might be ready for replacement based on their growing maintenance costs, Schrader said.

The software can be set up to automatically generate work orders for work supposed to be done on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis -- making sure that preventive maintenance to help prolong the system's life gets done.

Over time, the asset management program will help Kalispell make more informed maintenance and capital improvement decisions, Schrader said. The program's information also will help build a better long-term institutional memory for the public works department.

"It'll be nice to get it into a software database where the next generation can come through and pick up right where we're leaving off when people start to retire," Schrader said.

Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at tlotshaw@dailyinterlake.com.

___ (c)2013 the Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Mont.) Visit the Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Mont.) at www.dailyinterlake.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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