By Cain Madden/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Starting in 2007, Saltillo tasked itself to replacing 46,800 feet of water line.
It didn’t get off to a good start, though. Estimates at the time indicated that it would cost approximately $3.1 million to complete the project through contractors, which also included sewer work, and Mayor Bill Williams said that wasn’t something the city could have done.
“We couldn’t go out into the market and hire a contractor to do this,” Williams said. “It would just mean, that some of this stuff we wanted to do just couldn’t happen.”
The water lines, some of them 50 years old, were constantly breaking and leaking, and Saltillo Public Works Director Richard Feist estimated that he and his crew could cut that price by a third, and the board approved the project.
“Richard and his crew are very efficient, and we get a lot of bang for our buck,” Williams said. “They are able to carry on their day to day operations, and still do these projects well.”
Four years later, with work on replacing lines on Third Avenue starting up for the summer, Feist estimates that his department has saved the city $819,979.
“We can’t afford to hire someone to do this, we can barely afford to do what we are doing now,” Feist said. “But, the way we looked at it, we were getting paid no matter what we did, and we were all tired of these old lines blowing up and us constantly having to fix them.”
Feist said it was hard work, buthis five-man crew laying the line is dedicated to get it done, even in the 100-degree heat.
“It is a job,” Feist said. “But you can’t do it during the winter, when the ground is rotten and wet. In the winter, instead of disturbing four feet of ground, you end up disturbing 20 feet of ground, which would cost more to fix and get everyone’s yard back in order.”
Williams said there are still some situations where it is advantageous to hire out a contractor, such as a gravity sewer line. It’s more labor intensive and requires the Public Works Department to stick with it when they start it, meaning if a pipe were to burst, there would be no one available to repair it.