City hydrants get new seals

Published 1:40 pm Friday, May 14, 2010

A cost saving measure is being implemented that will repair leaking fire hydrants but save the city money.

Greg Roberts of Greg Roberts Fire Hydrant Repair and Supply and his wife Misty are in town conducting repair work on the city’s old hydrants by removing old seals and installing new ones.

In all, the couple will repair about 20 of the city’s many fire hydrants. Mayor Ed Pinero said the city needs work done on about 30 of the hydrants, but 10 of them are in such bad shape that they need to be replaced.

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Roberts said he uses rubber seals to conduct the repairs. Older hydrants were built with either leather or fiber seals, which break down over time and cause the hydrant to leak.

“Father Time’s took his toll, it’s just time to refurbish it,” Roberts said.

While the leather seals last longer than the fiber seals, leather seals were installed in the older hydrants. Rubber seals don’t deteriorate like the other types, Roberts said.

Putting in new seals prolongs the life of the hydrant and stops it from leaking. City Manager Harvey Miller said the repair work should enable the hydrants to be used for another 30 to 40 years.  The work also will save money for the city. The price the city has been paying for new hydrants is about $4,500 per unit. Pinero said the city is paying Roberts about $700 per hydrant to make the repairs.

“Instead of having to do the whole thing, this will save us a lot of money.” Pinero said “This will keep us way, way under budget for sure.”

Those savings will help the city fix almost all of the hydrants, Pinero said.

The idea to repair old hydrants came to the council after some Public Works employees attended a Water Conference. During a brain storming session at the conference, hydrant repairs were discussed and the employees pitched the idea to the council, which agreed to proceed.

Repairing a hydrant also keeps the city from having to cut off water to residents in the area. To install a new hydrant usually involves turning the water off in the area of installation. Another advantage to refurbishing an old hydrant is that old hydrants are made of harder brass.

“Everything new is not as good as old. They are not made as well,” Roberts said.

Roberts has about 26 years of experience working on fire hydrants. He started out working with his father installing new hydrants. In recent years his work shifted mostly to making repairs on old hydrants. Now he and his wife travel around five states, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky and Arkansas, doing the work.

“I never thought in a thousand years I would be doing this,” Misty Roberts said.

Misty said she started working with her husband because she likes to work outside and also likes to travel.