TERRYTOWN — Despite contractor delays, inclement weather and other hurdles, Terrytown’s project to completely update its water system continues toward a 2020 completion date.
The upgrade became necessary after one of Terrytown’s water wells had to be shut off due to higher arsenic levels than allowed by federal regulations.
The upgrade will include new water mains in both Terrytown and adjoining unincorporated Bellevue, which is part of Terrytown’s water system. A water metering system for all residences and businesses is also part of the project.
Estimates from earlier this year put the cost of the project at $3.1 million. A combination of funding from the City of Terrytown, the state’s Revolving Loan Fund, Community Development Block Grants from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are financing the work.
The first phase of the work was completed in November 2017 when Terrytown’s water system was connected with Gering, which is now supplying its water.
Work continues this year to replace some of the city’s water mains and install about 200-300 water meters.
“The project should be completed sometime next year,” Terrytown City Engineer Jeff Wolfe said. “At this point, it’s hard to say when because it will be dictated by the kind of fall and winter we have. The milder weather we have, the longer the contractors can work.”
Wolfe said that while the water meters are now being connected, the city won’t start charging users by the gallon until the project is finished.
“The entire system needs to be complete before we start charging anyone,” he said. “Then we’ll go through a couple of months of testing before residents will be billed.”
Residents are still being charged a flat rate for water. However, their bill includes a line item showing their water usage.
“This helps educate people on water conservation so they won’t get sticker shock right out of the door when the first metered bills are sent out,” Wolfe said.
Once the water system upgrade is completed, officials will need to decide what to do with the city’s original water tower, which sits across Five Rocks Road on the edge of Bellevue.
Wolfe said that once the city gets close to completion; they’ll have a better idea of the project’s total cost.
“We have some contingency money in the budget for unknowns,” he said. “We could rehabilitate the tower, rebuild it or remove it altogether.”
Because Terrytown’s water comes from Gering, there’s sufficient water to meet the city’s needs even without a water tower.
“The Terrytown tower helps balance everything out,” Wolfe said. “It takes the pressure of highs and lows out of the system and helps make water flow better to everyone. The tower also provides us with additional storage in case of an emergency.”
He said the system would work fine without a water tower, but keeping it in place is the best choice and helps Gering with its overall storage as well.
In the past few weeks, Terrytown has also had to deal with a number of water main breaks, causing temporary loss of water in many neighborhoods. Wolfe said those repairs have nothing do with the overall water meter project.
‘We’ve had three water main breaks in the last month-and-a-half,” he said. “We see this during temperature extremes. The soil starts to move and old, weak pipes will sometimes crack or break.”