Tonawanda News — With North Tonawanda’s aging infrastructure at the heart of political debates leading up to recent elections, the municipality is breaking into new territory with a water main replacement project launched on Tremont Street this week.
The project will add 300 feet of new lineage as part of a plan of attack to update the city’s most deteriorated portions of its water and sewage lines, while also assuaging concerns over low water pressure leading to DeGraff Memorial Hospital.
Rough figures range from the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars to completely fix North Tonawanda’s antiquated infrastructure, due to cast iron piping put into place approximately 100 years ago throughout much of the city and often found to be rusted and clogged. City leaders have vowed to appropriate funding to address the problem within the financial perimeters of its budget.
Part of that equation means more reliance on in-house services such as using Department of Public Works employees on jobs normally contracted out to private companies. Another facet is the introduction of PVC piping that is approximated to be a third of the cost of the commonly used ductile iron.
Both scenarios are playing out on the Tremont Street project, said DPW Superintendent Brad Rowles, which may set a precedent for years to come.
“The cost of the job is probably saving us about 50 percent because we’re using our employees,” he said. “And we’re saving ourselves some money on the product. We’re trying to evolve and we’re doing that in a very high-profile, high-traffic area at DeGraff.”
Rowles said while some municipalities turned to the PVC-style piping 20 years ago, the product has gained steam over the last five years. The Village of Kenmore and Town of Tonawanda have recently utilized the material, partly because of its lower cost but also because it is easier to install, saving on man hours and the use of heavy equipment.
The Tremont Street project will cost $60,000, though more than half of that will be covered by a state grant acquired by Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.
Rowles said he sent some of his crew members to a Kenmore project last year to gain practical experience that could be brought back to North Tonawanda. Now in place, the experiment has the potential to open up more dollars for similar projects.
The city on Tuesday approved a budget that earmarks $300,000 in bonded funds for water main replacement, $670,000 for a Sherwood Avenue pump station and another $300,000 for storm sewer separation projects — all of which may help ease flooding problems that gripped the city during the summer. Another $850,000 have been targeted to paving roads and fixing sidewalks.
“We’ll do a little at a time and we’ll pick and choose our values,” said City Engineer Dale Marshall.
Marshall said the 12-inch water lines installed on Tremont Street were in part spurred by an ongoing development project on Walck Road, centered on new condominiums called Villas a Deerwood, which gained city approval last year.
“It was a cost savings for them,” Marshall said. “We looked at it because they wanted to take over that system. It was the first job done that used the plastic in NT. And Tremont is the first job done by the city. It’s significant in that we have a history looking at plastic piping. It doesn’t erode and it requires less repairs.”
Traffic will be diverted off Tremont Street between Twin Cities Memorial Highway and Whiting Street through next week. Patients can access DeGraff Memorial Hospital via Christiana Street.
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.