Fort Stockton City Manager Frank Rodriguez III remembered being out at the Belding Booster Station in 2009 after a major rupture in the water line that feeds into Fort Stockton.
Nearly eight years later, Rodriguez joined more than two dozen elected officials and city workers at the site Monday for a ground-breaking ceremony for a $6.2 million, year-long project to replace the nine-mile long pipeline.
“I did specifically ask for all the different departments – water, RO, sewer – everybody to come out because you are the guys that jump in the hole when this line breaks,” Rodriguez said before the symbolic ground breaking. “For that, I am very grateful. So, I am very happy for you guys. … We can go on and fix other issues in our community and quit worrying about nine miles of pipe that is going to break on us.”
The existing pipe was installed about 60 years ago. It is 20 inches in diameter and is made of concrete and steel. It has been prone to large breakages.
“We’ve had three or four major breaks,” said City Councilman Ruben Falcon. “We would be on water restrictions for two days, but we were down to eight hours on the last one.”
The increased response time came from a combination of learning the pipeline system’s circuit into the city and being able to use local welders and crews to make fixes instead of out-of-town companies.
The new pipe is 30-inch C900 PVC that comes in 20-foot sections and that are more than one inch thick. More than 260 sections of pipe are stacked up on a storage lot less than one mile from the booster station waiting to be installed.
City officials hope the construction will start this week.
The installation of the new pipeline includes digging new trenches some 15-20 feet deep. The new line will run parallel to the existing line in some spots, while crossing to the opposite side of the road in others.
While pegged for one year, officials said they hoped the project would be completed much sooner.
The funding came from a Certificate of Obligation. Unlike a bond with a designated tax tied to it, the certificate of obligation – or a CO – is a private sector loan that will be repaid through user fees tied to residential and commercial water usage.
The users fees are in place for 20 years, although Rodriguez says he hopes to pay the project off early.
Rodriguez said the timing of the project coincided perfectly with the decline of gas prices. PVC pipes require oil in their production. Acquiring the pipes eight months ago, the city likely sliced the cost of the project also in half.
Each of the ceremonial shovelers we allowed to keep their gold-colored shovels. Rodriguez said the shovels we provided through private funds for the event.