NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Up to 60 new fireplugs are expected to installed and operational by the end of September.
Contracts have been awarded and the project is waiting on parts and an order to proceed. The work is expected to start around the beginning of August.
"We have done the the bidding on the fire hydrant project in two stages," Mayor Thomas Bernard told the City Council on Tuesday. "The fire hydrants themselves, and then on the installation, in two separate projects, believing, I think correctly, that we would get a better price purchasing the hydrants separately rather than rolling those into a bid."
According to the mayor, there are now 43 hydrants that are considered non-functional and 54 that "have issues" but that the Water Department and Fire Department believe are usable in an emergency situation.
The faulty fire hydrants came to the fore earlier this year when firefighters had to struggle with broken hydrants at two major fires. The problems date back more than a decade: A study in 2011 found about 200 nonfunctioning hydrants, or about a third of the entire number.
Since then, funds have been used to slowly replace or repair hydrants annual but an audit in April — following the fires — found 130 still needed replacement or repair.
There had initially been 55 hydrants bagged as unusable (53 as of Tuesday) when the survey was done but 10 of those have been replaced from existing inventory. Another five had been in the process of being replaced at Greylock Apartments by the North Adams Housing Authority.
The City Council authorized the borrowing of up to $300,000 to begin a major replacement of the city's 631 hydrants.
Bids were awarded to FW Webb Co. of Bedford for $121,697 for 50 hydrants and extension pieces; Cain's Mechanical Service in Southwick for $205,250 for installation.
Another $20,000 was placed in the fiscal 2022 budget for another 10 hydrants.
Public Services Commissioner Timothy Lescarbeau said the parts have been ordered and will take about 30 to 60 days for them to arrive. The contract has another 45 days after that to complete the project. Lescarbeau noted there is money budgeted under capital outlays to continue replacements in the next budget.
"By the end of the summer, certainly by the end of the year, we should hopefully be in a position to have 60 new hydrants in the city," the mayor said.
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