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City crews have been doing an inventory of fire hydrants and bagging those out of service.

Bernard Asking to Borrow $300K to Fix Fire Hydrant Problems

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
04:38PM / Wednesday, March 03, 2021
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Thomas Bernard is asking the City Council to borrow $300,000 to fix the fire hydrant system. 
 
In a press release on Wednesday afternoon, he also provided an update on the emergency survey undertaken after two serious fires highlighted the continuing deficiencies in the city's hydrant system. 
 
The just completed inventory has found 55 fireplugs were nonfunctioning, far fewer than what was estimated a few weeks ago. 
 
"Currently, the condition of the fire hydrant system in the city represents a significant threat to our shared commitment, as well as to the physical safety and peace of mind of our residents," the mayor wrote. "The North Adams Fire Department's response to the January 29, 2021, fire on Greylock Avenue was made more difficult due to several fire hydrants in the neighborhood not working. The response to the February 12, 2021, fire on Veazie Street also was hampered by an inoperative hydrant adjacent to the property where the fire occurred, as well as by a missing hydrant further down the street. We all are concerned about the loss of property, proud of our first responders, and grateful that there were no injuries, but these fires highlighted significant issues of communication and maintenance among and between city departments and city leadership."
 
Bernard said the situation was unacceptable and reiterated the need "to take short, medium, and long-term action" to correct long-deferred maintenance of the system.
 
More than a third of the 631 fire hydrants had been found to be nonoperative a decade ago for various reasons. The city had been setting aside funds to replace and repair them but Commissioner of Public Services Timothy Lescarbeau had estimated that 130 might still be inoperative following the Veazie Street fire, during which three hydrants were found to be frozen, not working or completely missing. 
 
The much depleted Water Department had been operating with two full time and one part time person but only one person had been available to work on the hydrants and other water problems. A third full-time person was just hired to fill a post budgeted for last year but delayed because of a hiring and spending freeze during the pandemic. 
 
The mayor said the Water Department staff are inspecting every hydrant in the city; removing, cleaning, and greasing caps where needed; and bagging those hydrants deemed inoperative.
 
They are also verifying and documenting hydrant GPS locations, as well as the make and year of each unit. Additional Public Services crews to assisting in the documentation.
 
So far they have found 55 inoperative hydrants, 12 not listed in geographic information systems records and have returned three to service. 
 
Information about hydrant condition will be provided to the Fire Department and the Public Services Department has ordered an additional GPS unit to assist with streamlining this work in the field.
 
The updated GPS data will allow for the Public Services, Water and Fire departments to identify priority locations for immediate hydrant replacement.
 
Bernard had looked for funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program but said the program did not align with the city's immediate needs. Instead, he is looking to borrow the funding needed to overhaul the system and to include fire hydrants in the bidding specifications for planned work on Liberty and North Houghton streets using Community Development Block Grant funds.
 
"If approved by the council, I estimate that we will be able to put a project out to bid to replace 50-60 hydrants aligned with the priorities identified by the Fire and Public Services departments, and to begin and complete this work as quickly as possible," he said. "While this will not resolve all the issues with the system, it will address many immediate concerns and remedy the areas where our investments have not kept pace with our needs. 
 
"Concurrently we will build a clear, consistent hydrant replacement program into the budget and capital plan that I will be presenting to the council and the community this spring."

Tags: fire hydrants,   

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