Whose hydrant is it anyway?

It’s something that many take for granted.

Fire hydrants.

They are everywhere, on every street, around every corner.

But does anyone realize what it takes to make sure those hydrants are optimized at all times to ensure that the fire department can use it when there is an emergency?

It’s simple, really. Regular maintenance. Like a vehicle, this simple piece of metal needs to be tested, flowed and fixed on a regular basis.

That process costs about $35 per hydrant and must be tested by someone who has been trained and licensed with the State Fire Marshall. For about 1,400 hydrants in the city, that can become quite a challenge for time and money. The exact number of public hydrants versus private hydrants is uncertain.

For private hydrants, which are red in color, the responsibility lies with the owner, which is either an HOA or a private entity.

The public ones, which are yellow, are another story.

At one point the City of Mesquite took on the responsibility. That ended a few years ago when then Fire Chief John Higley cut the ropes and said the fire department could no longer take on that responsibility due to a shortage of manpower. Current Fire Chief Kash Christopher has been chiming the same tune. Since Higley’s move, it has been an ongoing issue between the city and the Virgin Valley Water District, the other entity that does not see the hydrants as their responsibility.

Looking through the paper trails, there is nothing that technically gives the responsibility to the city or to the water district.

At the June 7, 2016, water district meeting, district manager Kevin Brown advised the board that his staff was working with the city to transfer the responsibility of testing the hydrants to the city. At this time, no formal agreement has been accepted or refused.

“We are still waiting for a response from the city,” Brown said. City Manager Andy Barton said he is waiting on a final decision by the water district. One way or another, there should be answers by the end of May.

To help ease the burden of the costs, the water district has tentatively offered to cover $10,000 for fiscal year 2017-18 (pending May’s final budget meetings), $5,000 for 2018-19. As of 2019-20, the City of Mesquite would be solely responsible for the testing of the hydrants. However, Brown confirmed if the hydrants need to be repaired or replaced, then that would be the responsibility of the water district when notified by the city.

If the water district doesn’t pass the approval in its budget, the entire issue may proceed to litigation, which would be more costly for both sides. Legal fees are one thing both the city and the water district have managed to reduce in recent years.

Comments

  1. Lee Harper says:

    I was on the fire department in northern Utah for 8 years and in that time frame the city is fully in charge of the maintenance of its hydrants.
    I have never heard of them trying to put it on someone else.

  2. Teri Nehrenz says:

    There’s a very simple solution to the understaffing/cost issue that the MFD can implement to solve the situation.
    We currently spend about 8,000 per firefighter for training after which we retain a negligible percentage of those trainees. During the training period they are required to give “volunteer” time back to the department. Why not incorporate some of the fire hydrant training into that and put them on the task?

    Years ago when there was a shortage of nurses, many hospitals offered to train them for nursing but they had to agree to a two/three/four year employment contract afterward and if they breeched that contract then they had to pay back the cost of the training.

    This solves two problems, paying someone to train without the inability to retain them for employment and you’ve got the contract agreement for the hydrants.

    Contracts don’t have to include full time employment offers…..something to think about.

    One thing is for sure, the public deserves this service, they pay for it through their tax dollars and God forbid a hydrant isn’t tested and fails when needed….

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