Meadville Tribune

Local News

June 8, 2012

Stormwater part seven: Capital improvements

MEADVILLE — By definition, capital investment has to involve assets — the acquisition or improvement of property or equipment, for example. While money spent on day-to-day operations such as payroll, inventory or maintenance may be an excellent investment, it’s not capital.

Traditionally, the City of Meadville’s stormwater-related capital investment projects have tended to take place as state and federal funding comes available. In fact, the city’s current capital budget does not include any funding for major stormwater-related infrastructure projects.

In a report prepared for the city’s Stormwater Stakeholder Advisory Committee, stormwater consultants Jean Haggerty and Brian Merritt of AMEC Environment & Infrastructure Inc. described most of the city’s major equipment as “aging and needs regular maintenance.” In addition, “there is no redundancy or regular replacement schedule. The age and type of equipment available to the field staff is affecting efficiency and needs replacement.”

In addition, the city’s capital budget simply doesn’t include any sort of ongoing vehicle replacement fund. “This fund would be established to begin collecting the funds needed to systematically and periodically replace vehicles, creating a long-term and sustainable replacement mechanism,” the report to the committee continued.

It’s not that there’s a lot of time to build a fund.

The city’s street sweeper — a single piece of equipment whose estimated $250,000 replacement cost equals more than half the estimated $366,000 the city now devotes to stormwater management on an annual basis — has already exceeded its useful lifetime. During the current fiscal year, for example, the city spent an estimated $16,000 to repair its rear door. In addition, the existing vacuum truck — a $335,000 investment — is also almost on its last wheels. Two leaf trailers — $40,000 each — are also due for replacement within the next five years.

Curb replacement, another key — and highly visible —component of the city’s stormwater management system, also needs to be stepped up.

Then there’s Rainbow Dam, a crucial element in the city’s Mill Run flood control program. The consultants have identified four issues that must be addressed in order to maintain the dam “as a safe and functioning structure.”

n Erosion at one of the inlets must be stabilized.

n A joint separation on the spillway must be sealed.

n The safety fence surrounding the dam requires regular maintenance.

n Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has told the city that the spillway is too small. If it is indeed determined to be inadequate, engineering design and reconstruction will be required.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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