No relief in sight for areas without hydrants

By By J.W. Greenhill, Hartselle Enquirer
The areas in Hartselle without fire hydrants probably won't see relief any time soon.
According to Hartselle Utilities General Manager George Adair, there are 12 areas in the city not served by fire hydrants. The estimated total cost to provide fire protection to all these areas is in excess of $1 million, Adair said.
The problem came to light recently when Mountain View Road resident Albert Cox requested a hydrant be installed in the north Hartselle subdivision. He presented the utility board with a petition containing some 40 signatures requesting a hydrant.
HU board members directed Adair to research costs and practicality of the project. They also directed board attorney David Langston to check on the utilities' obligation in the matter.
The results of that check mean the request for a fire hydrant won't be granted, however.
Langston said the utility apparently has no obligation to install the necessary lines to provide hydrants in those areas.
"There is a contract in place that obligates HU to maintain hydrants or replace non-working hydrants in areas where they already exist," Langston said. "But there is no contract with the city requiring the utility to install in new areas."
Current subdivision regulations require developers to include adequate fire protection resources, such as fire hydrants, in their plans. That was not the case when the 12 unserved developments were accepted into the city.
In addition to Mountain View Road, areas identified inside Hartselle city limits without fire hydrant protection were West Thompson Road, the Riggs Bridge area of Penn Road, Roan Road, Warren Road, the Groover and Madison area, Nethery Road, Twin Lakes Circle, Springdale Road, Sanders Road, Woodbreeze Drive and North Byrd Road.
Each of these developments was annexed into the city between 1947 and 1991. The Mountain View area developed in the late 1970s and was taken into the city in 1986.
The cost of the Mountain View project was estimated at $222,000, or $18,500 each, for the 12 HU customers living in the area, Adair said.
Adair said he checked on possible grants to provide fire protection in the identified areas, but was told grants to install hydrants were virtually non-existent. Grants are available to install drinking water lines and many utilities install lines capable of handling fire protection needs with grant funds in original installations, but such is not the case in the Mountain View area, he said.
HU Engineering Director Wayne Robertson said the lines in the area are in good shape and no improvement work is scheduled for the area.
HU financial officer Greg Vandiver agreed with Robertson that there is no foreseeable way for the utility to recoup the cost of installing lines sufficient to meet fire protection needs.
That answer wasn't sufficient for some city officials, however.
Mayor Clif Knight was concerned by the news of so many areas without hydrants in the city.
"I wasn't aware of these pockets without fire protection," he said.
Knight said the city isn't able to address the deficiencies either.
"Our funds are limited, too. I couldn't see us being able to work on these except with grants. We can't handle them as budgeted line items."

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