Friday, September 18, 2020

Public Works Teams Up Through Hardship to Provide Essential Services

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs classifies the basic human requirements as physiological such as food, water and shelter. When we dive down to determine essentials to keep our life going; water, plumbing and pathways to get to food and shelter are likely to make the list along with being with our loved ones.

March 2020 became a reminder of some of the essential services we often take for granted like turning on the faucet to drink a glass of water, flushing the toilet, driving down a roadway to the grocery store or even taking a stroll down the neighborhood sidewalk for a breath of fresh air.

Access to these necessities couldn’t cease.

“The COVID-19 environment forced us to develop a new service delivery model – one that would protect our workforce and customers as we continued to deliver our core services,” Public Works Director Rob Cohen said. “Our team overcame a tremendous number of setbacks and obstacles, yet their resilience continues to help us persevere through these uncharted times. I’m very proud of our team. They came together in a way that exemplified their ‘can do’ mantra while adhering to our exceptionally high standards and values.”

Public Works Operations’ primary duties involve tools in their hands and mud on their boots. When the call came to work from home, Public Works Operations Manager Jack Thompson was tasked with coordinating logistics and creating a sense of team among workers who weren’t used to collaborating digitally, all while he was required to work from home.

“Rob’s support and confidence in our team helped us to do what we needed to do in order to continue providing our services,” Thompson said. “We had the trust to make good decisions and the ability to make changes on the fly to make sure we were providing high-quality services to our residents and performing those duties in a safe manner.”

Operations Crew Leader Tim Hackrott came up with the idea to station teams at the water towers. Thompson stationed one person from the water, wastewater and streets teams at the water towers so that teams were socially distanced while the Public Works Operations facility was shut down. Most requests were handled via phone call to lessen the amount of exposure to the public and emergencies were responded to as needed.

Despite all the changes, production never fell off. Public Works Operations completed 234 water quality samples and continued 24/7 monitoring of water levels and pumping operations.

When workers weren’t in the field, they were updating standard operating procedures and obtaining FEMA and emergency management certifications.

“We were here every day. There was always something to take care of and processes to document and improve on,” Thompson said.

When Public Works Operations lost their teammate Darlene Rubio to COVID-19, they continued to press on. Public Works Administration Secretary Lydia Ruiz picked up the baton, not only managing work from administration, but handling all of Rubio’s assignments.

“I think losing Darlene really hit home. COVID-19 wasn’t just in the news, it was real for all of us,” Ruiz said.

In addition to her regular duties, she has worked to support telecommuting staff in new ways, managing finance and administration tasks, information packets for the City Council, as well as assisting in the development of the department budget.

She said the team has experienced a lot of change in the past several months, but she tries to make herself available as an assistant, especially to the remote workers who feel disconnected from their coworkers.

“We’re a close-knit group in Public Works. The City has done an excellent job of hiring the right people who make a great team,” Ruiz said. “Everyone is willing to lend a hand.”

Through our Southlake Values of Integrity, Innovation, Accountability, Excellence and Teamwork, our Public Works team has stepped up to the task to rethink the new world of working with social distancing, do the right thing and take personal responsibility for the work, all while working together to set a higher standard for services in Southlake.

Learn more about the essential services Southlake Public Works provides here.

Opening Your Business Back Up Soon? Check Out These Tips for Flushing Water from Your Plumbing.

The City of Southlake, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, wants to make sure you know how to properly flush out old water that has been sitting in the plumbing of your business for the last few weeks. 

While businesses and other buildings have been closed, water that existed in those private plumbing systems may have deteriorated in quality. Typically, buildings can prevent stagnant water through regular, consistent water use, so this is not a concern most of the time. However, there are easy fixes that business owners can undertake to ensure clean, fresh water is flowing through those faucets. 

  1. Remove faucet aerators if possible, and replace them after flushing is completed. 
  2. Consider opening only one fixture (sink, shower head, hose bib) at a time. The more fixtures that are open, the slower water will flow into the building, which will result in some pressure loss. 
  3. Start at the lowest floor of your building and work your way towards the top. 
  4. Alternate turning on hot water and cold water. If there is a water heater onsite, this will ensure the water heater is flushed as well. You will need to flush cold water longer than hot water. 
  5. Connect a water hose to an outdoor hose bib, or spigot. Flush this water for at least one hour. This will rid your plumbing of the stagnant water that has been buried underground in plumbing first. 
  6. Flush all toilets in each restroom. 
  7. For restroom sinks, you can turn on the faucet and flush for at least 2 minutes. 
  8. For kitchen sinks, you should flush cold water for at least 8-10 minutes, and hot water for at least one minute. 
  9. For water fountains, you should flush at least 1 minute. 
  10. For more guidance on water systems in buildings and additional steps you may want to take, you can visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html . 

Southlake Water Utilities maintains a year-round fire hydrant flushing program and monitors water quality in our water system daily. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us at 817-748-8082. 

Automatic Water Payments Available March 16

You asked! We delivered!

Beginning March 16, you will be able to add a credit card to automatically pay your water bill each month. No worries. No hassle. Just add your credit card to your account and your water bill is automatically paid until you change the settings.

Previously registered customers can login using their current account login. Go to www.southlakewaterutilities.com, select “Pay My Bill.” Select “Log In” in the upper right corner. Enter your username and password that you have previously created, and continue as you normally would to pay your water bill and enroll in the recurring credit card payment option.

Don’t have an account?  Go to www.southlakewaterutilities.com, select “Pay My Bill.” Enter your account number and customer number which is located on your most recent water bill. Continue through the prompts to make a payment and enroll in the recurring credit card payment option. You can check the box “Remember These Values” to save your information for future use.

By using the new auto payment service, the credit card on file with be automatically charged each month on the payment due date for the water bill amount. You will have to make one payment with this credit card and then it will give you the option to enroll in the recurring credit option.

With this addition, you will still be able to make a one-time payment through the self-service portal using your Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Card, mail a check or money order to our office, drop off your payment at the drop box located in the breezeway the north side of Town Hall in between Origins and Talbots or stop by our office between the hours of 8 a.m. -5 p.m., Monday-Friday.

The City of Southlake is happy to add the recurring payment option and continue to deliver world-class services to our citizens.

Call Southlake Water Utilities Customer Service at 817-748-8051 or email swucustomerservice@ci.southlake.tx.us with any questions.

City Looks to Invest in New Water Infrastructure

You turn on the sink to wash dishes or shower for the day, but probably don’t think about the process of getting water to your house. But there’s a lot of work behind the scenes before the water ever comes into your home.

The Southlake City Council approved an engineering services agreement with Freese and Nichols, Inc. during the February 4 session. Under the agreement, FNI will provide engineering design services not to exceed $318,171 for residual control systems located at the Pearson and T.W. King Pump Stations.

“The completed project will provide our water system operators with the capability to control chlorine residual levels within the water system per federal regulations,” Public Works Director Rob Cohen said. “Creating and eventually purchasing the systems is one way we’re investing in quality infrastructure for the community.” 

Once the design is complete, the City can plan to purchase and install the systems in the next several years.

The hypochlorite generation systems helps to keep the water disinfected and assists in emergency preparedness. The new systems are part of the City’s goals to continue to provide safe, compliant drinking water, optimize technology, as well as build and maintain our high quality infrastructure.

Funding for the design of the systems will be provided from the Utility Fund.

Sewer Averages Calculated Now – What to Expect on Your Bill

Through the winter months of November, December and January, customers typically use less water.  During this time of year, people are not using water sprinklers, refilling their pools or washing the car as often.

This is why the residential sewer rate average is based upon the water consumption in the months of November, December and January. Water usage for those months will affect the amount that is billed in sewer charges for the remaining nine months out of the year.

For instance, if November’s water consumption is 4000 gallons, December’s water consumption is 3500 gallons and January’s water consumption is 4500 gallons, this gives an average water consumption of 4000 gallons which is what the sewer charges will be calculated at for the remaining 9 months in 2020, which fall between March – October.

Southlake Water Utilities wants to remind citizens that these next two months of water usage will indeed affect sewer averages.

To review more information about Water and Sewer rates, please visit us online.

Council Approves Contract for Repairs at T.W. King Booster Station

The City continues aiming to achieve the highest standards of safety and security by investing in and maintaining quality public assets. City Council authorized expenditures at the November 19 council meeting to replace the existing 20 year old pump control valves, which will ensure critical operation of the T. W. Booster Station that is located at 3655 T.W. King Road.

This Booster Station is vital to the welfare of Southlake residents because it is utilized to deliver potable drinking water and also provides fire protection in case of an emergency.

Booster Stations increase low water pressure by pumping the water purchased from our Wholesale Provider to the water towers, then ultimately into a home or commercial facility.

The T.W. King Booster Station is one of Southlakes’ two points of entry from Fort Worth with the capacity to distribute approximately 17 million gallons of water per day.

The funds were set aside in the FY2020 Utility Fund and Water Operating budget to replace two 12-inch booster pump control valves along with providing additional repair services if needed. These replacements are necessary to provide adequate protection to the low-pressure plane to meet demand and supply of this area.

Services will be provided by Axis Construction, LP who is also required to provide emergency replacement of a broken beyond repair 16-inch surge anticipating valve with a standard Cla-Val brand valve. This valve helps alleviate any pressure surge the system may encounter due to a power failure.

The City always seeks a proactive solution to our infrastructure; by investing in our public assets strategically, the City can continue to provide the highest quality of life for our residents.

City to Take Part in Water Assessment Program

City Council renewed an agreement to participate with Wachs Water Services, A Division of Pure Technologies U.S. for the annual Water Valve Assessment Program and leak detection services on Tuesday at the November 19 City Council meeting.

This is the fourth year the City has participated with this program which assesses the condition of the water valves to ensure proper functionality in the event of a possible crisis by providing asset management, leak detection services and water quality improvement.

The program also confirms valve and hydrant location as compared to the City’s GIS database, operability and leak assessment.

This year, Wachs will assess approximately 665 small diameter water valves by locating and collecting GPS coordinates of these water valves, test the operation of these valves, and identify which valve requires repairs and/or improvements.

Funding for this service is provided by the FY 2020 Utility Fund and Water Operating Budget.

 

Systems that Work – How the City Invests in Water Quality

One thing is for sure, water quality has always been a top priority for the City of Southlake.

The City has consistently invested in applications to allow the City and residents to monitor water usage, detect for leaks as well as provide information about water quality. 

At the October 15 City Council meeting, Council approved the annual purchase agreement for BEACON Cellular Service for the City’s Water Smart Program with Badger Meter Inc. and upgrades to the City’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.  

BEACON is a cellular technology system that transmits daily readings to a central database through a cellular network. It’s the main source of the City’s Water Smart application. The BEACON Eye On Water operates as a central database to store utility customer’s water consumption readings to accurately bill the customer each month. 

This software tool also improves the customer experience by providing the customer an option to review their water usage in real time online through the EyeOnWater app.  In addition, it equips Public Works staff with the ability to monitor water operations such as investigate leaks, identify backflows and hardware issues and maintain cellular radio communication. All meters within the City of Southlake are equipped with this technology and residents can take advantage by downloading the EyeOnWater app for FREE.

The upgrades to the SCADA system are geared toward the City’s water distribution system and waste water collection system which is used to monitor and control the functionality and operation of drinking water systems, disinfectant levels, storage levels of the elevated and ground storage tanks of drinking water, pumping capacity of waste water lift stations, and delivery capability of transmission mains of both systems.  

To maintain this system and ensure that it is reporting real-time data, SCADA software coding, servicing and maintenance are required when incidentals arise. Currently, the SCADA platform is operating on Windows 2008 and its end of life support will expire at the end of 2019. 

The new upgrades will have the Wonderware software which includes the procurement of licensing, installation, setup and running the program on a cloud base reporting system. The upgrade will also bring enhanced reporting features to meet increasing regulatory requirements. 

 “Using the Wonderware and BEACON technology to implement cost-effective solutions for both the citizens and the utility allows us to take proactive measures when and if an issue arises at the customer’s tap,” stated Water Supervisor, Kyle Flanagan, “It also helps us maintain water quality as well keep a real-time eye on the overall condition of water and waste water infrastructure .”  

 

 

Care and Repair DIY Sprinkler System Workshop

Summertime is here and water use is at its peak. Sprinkler systems that leak, or are improperly installed, may cause higher water bills or waste thousands of gallons of water.

On Saturday, August 24 from 9 – 10:30 a.m. the City will be hosting a free “Care and Repair DIY Sprinkler System Workshop” at the Bob Jones Nature Center located at 355 Bob Jones Rd. Water conservation expert Dr. Dotty Woodson, who recently retired from her role as Water Resources Program Specialist at Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service, will lead the class. She will be teaching how to show your sprinkler system some “summer lovin’” by repairing and maintaining our sprinkler systems.

Click here to register and save your seat! You will receive a water conservation bundle, containing a reusable canvas bag, a soil moisture meter, spray nozzles and more.

Here are some tips on how to reduce your water use:

  • Follow Water is Awesome Weekly Watering Advice to stay informed on the suggested lawn watering based on the current precipitation rates in our area. Remember to continue to follow the City’s watering schedule. Click here to sign up here.
  • Sign up for our W.I.S.E. Guys program to get a free sprinkler system evaluation and qualify to receive a $200 rebate on your water bill if you make any improvements to your system after the evaluation. Visit https://www.cityofsouthlake.com/wiseguys for more information.
  • Activate your Eye on Water account to set up alerts for leaks on your property by visiting https://southlaketx.eyeonwater.com/signin.