The water utility rates in Truth or Consequences haven’t been updated since 2007, and the division now runs at net loss every year. On top of that, most of the drinking water infrastructure is fifty years old or more, with some lines at extreme risk of failure.
Those “extreme risk” lines are concentrated in the downtown area, which is why the city applied for a USDA grant/loan package to replace them. The package is made up of a roughly $5 million loan, plus a grant of around $4 million.
There are strings attached. The water division must have operating income sufficient for its sustainable operation, so rates will have to go up.
At a series of recent public forums announced by the city, the dire financial and engineering details were laid out by RCAC, a nonprofit that provides training, technical and financial resources and advocacy to rural communities, and a project manager from Wilson & Company, a civil engineering firm.
Impact on Downtown Businesses
If the project proceeds as planned, the engineering firm will spend the spring and summer of 2020 surveying downtown businesses and residents to better understand the traffic patterns, peak times, and water usage. Completion of the engineering plans and schedules is anticipated in late 2020, with construction to begin in February 2021 and proceed through December.
The scope of the replacement project includes the entirety of the Main/Broadway loop, plus parts of Foch, McAdoo, Pershing, Daniels, and one block of Riverside just east of Date Street. These are 12″, 8″, and 6″ water lines that are in most dire need of replacement.
Construction will be conducted in the parking lanes of the streets, and no road closure of Main or Broadway is anticipated. Sidewalks will continue to be accessible to pedestrians.
There will be unavoidable water service outages experienced by downtown businesses and residents, and one purpose of the business interviews is to understand how to minimize the impact of these disruptions. The firm provided the following estimates:
2-4 hours per business service line reconnection.
Possible 4-6 hours for each emergency water outages. Estimate 2-each during construction.
4-6 hours scheduled outages for connection to existing system. Estimate 4-each.
There is one line replacement method called “pipe bursting” that the firm will try to avoid but it may be required on some blocks. This method causes up a week of service disruption.
Downtown business and residents can expect to hear from project leaders in the coming weeks. A steering committee of downtown business representatives, city staff, and engineering firm managers will help guide the project and keep everyone informed.