Another water line break in Sciotoville on Friday morning has the City of Portsmouth’s special projects team working in below freezing temperatures. Robert Lunsford operated a backhoe with a buster head tearing up the asphalt on Harding Avenue. Donnie Smith used a backhoe to move it to the dumptruck while Ryan Hightower of utilities department got ready for the water line repair. Kyle Gibson flagged traffic southbound while Neal Olsen assisted for the northbound traffic.
The Daily Times met up with George James, Special Projects Supervisor and David Scott, the Crew Leader of the project team purchasing outdoor safety equipment including head wear and thick gloves for employees from Wagner Rental and Supply in New Boston.
James said, “We always try to buy local when we can.”
The city owns most of the equipment they need but sometimes they need to rent or purchase saw blades, etc.
“We had to buy two pumps on Thursday,” Scott said. “Weather takes a toll on them.”
James and Scott were headed to the Harding Avenue water break where their crew was breaking asphalt getting ready for the repair to the water line.
“This week we went through a flu or stomach bug with different ones off sick, ” said James. “There have been close to two dozen water breaks in the last two weeks, meters freezing up from cold weather and wind blowing. It’s the time of the year, we are the busiest.”
James advises residents if they notice the meter lid off please call in so someone can come out and put it on. If your water froze last year, take precaution, find where the air is coming in and make the repair to keep the water from freezing up inside. Leave your water dripping on cold nights to allow the water to keep moving through the lines.
“We respond to the major ones first, the ones really causing a lot of ice or a threat of damage to homes or properties,” said James.
The department has been responding 24 hours a day for the last two weeks.
“Most of us have 80 overtime in addition to our regular schedule,” stated Scott.
There are 12 employees on staff, they have had two crews out in recent weeks and could have used a third to making the necessary repairs and keeping the water flowing.
Scott stated, “Sometimes we call in people from other departments, like sewer maintenance, to help us.”
Due to cutbacks the department doesn’t have the opportunity for three crews; therefore, they run with two crews in the conditions we have seen recently.
“If we are out working in the road and you see water running please slow down and don’t splash us,” James asked the public to be patient and aware of workers. “We are getting water lines fixed and roads buttoned back up as quickly as possible. Bear with us and try to make it a little easier.”
The street crew of the Public Service Department comes out to salt the roads where the water line break ran water onto roadways in an effort to keep the streets safe for motorists.
Dave Wagner, one of the owners of Wagner Rental and Supply talked about the difference in this year compared to last year at this time concerning the cold weather we are experiencing.
“It has changed what people rent,” Wagner stated. “People do not want to get involved in any type of unnecessary work outside in the cold.”
“The biggest impact (from the cold weather) on business is the amount of heaters we have sold,” Wagner gives insight to how the sales have shifted compared to the warmer weather seen last year at this time.
“Radiant style and salamander are the two main types we have seen sold,” Wagner stated. “We have generators available, as well but electric seems to be repaired within a few hours up to this point so the demand is not as great, yet.”
In addition to the City of Portsmouth, several municipalities and townships including the Village of New Boston do business locally at Wagner Rental and Supply according to Wagner.
“We appreciate them and try to accommodate any need they have or a need any local person or business owner might have,” Wagner stated. “If we do not have something we try to order it for them.”
Wagner stated he is usually in the Chillicothe location but others at the New Boston store including Tim Wagner, another owner or the staff are more than happy to assist you. Wagner Rental and Supply also has locations in Jackson and Ashland.