Village Officials Examine Fire Hydrant Issue

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The village is currently addressing the issue of fire hydrants in the community that need either replacing or repairing.

According to New Paltz Village Mayor Tim Rogers, there are about 140 fire hydrants in the community. A vast majority are older models with 3-inch valves for fire truck hoses to connect to that need or may need repairs. Newer models vary in valve size and internal structure, according to Rogers.

“On every truck, we have multiple connectors that would allow us to connect different types of hoses with different threads to the hydrants,” said Cory Wirthmann, second assistant chief of the New Paltz Fire Department (NPFD). “Each truck carries a specifically designated hydrant bag attached to the back of the vehicle containing everything a firefighter should generally need to connect to a hydrant.”

“There are fire hydrant projects that are now sorted out,” Rogers said. “One of them was down on Huguenot Street across from Town and Country, the other expensive project was at Henry W. Dubois and Prospect Street.”

According to Rogers, there is one remaining fire hydrant on 32 North Chestnut Street that is offline. He said that the parts needed to repair the fire hydrant on 32 North Chestnut Street are on order.

The term “offline” means that the hydrant does not run water. According to Superintendent of Village Department of Public Works (VDPW) Bleu Terwilliger, this happens semi-frequently and is more likely to happen when the public works department flushes out the hydrant water system, this process is done twice a year. Fire hydrants may go offline also because they were damaged or if there is a water main problem.

“I think that’s just the general nature of the responsibility of our public works department. If infrastructure fails they have to replace it,” Rogers said. “We’ve had some infrastructure failures and they’ve been replacing them, so of the recent four challenging fire hydrants that we’ve had, there is only one remaining that we are waiting for parts on.”

Terwilliger said that the fire hydrant situation in which fire hydrants go offline or need repairing or replacing usually causes anxiety for residents. However, it must be noted that there are fire hydrants on almost every block, therefore if one hydrant is offline, one which is in proximity of “throwing a softball” is there and able to be used.

NPFD serves both the village and the town of New Paltz. According to Wirthmann, when a hydrant goes offline in the town a message is relayed to the NPFD from the Town Highway Deptartment via the Town of New Paltz Police Deptartment When a hydrant goes offline in the village, the VDPW will either contact the NPFD directly or tell Tim Rogers and thereafter information gets relayed through email or phone to the NPFD. Wirthman added that if a fire hydrant goes offline on the SUNY New Paltz campus, they are notified directly by the Associate Director of Fire Safety Scott Schulte.

According to Rogers, the rough cost estimate to replace a fire hydrant is $6,000. Although it may seem simpler to replace fire hydrants that date back to 1968, there are additional engineering fees that are necessary to excavate below ground in order to put it in place. These engineering fees may include updating other connectors to water mains; of which may be of different sizes or older vintages. There have been several water main failures during the last year, according to Rogers.

“I think what’s fascinating about our water infrastructure in the village is that it dates back to the 1880s and 1920s, so we have a lot of approximately 100 year old infrastructure,” Rogers said. “We had a water main failure recently and replaced the pipe. It was an 8 inch pipe with 2 inches of buildup, essentially a 4 inch pipe because of 100 years of build up.”

Rogers said that projects that concern protection measures such as the fire hydrants can be catalysts for the town and village to direct their attention to different water infrastructure issue.  According to Rogers, there is a list of all possible water project the village could address. This list in its entirety sums up to a hefty $4.4 million. However, Rogers said that the village grant writer is attempting to get a grant from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“We get that money because we have DEC consent orders because of our aged out sewer infrastructure,” Rogers said. “So the DEC comes into a community and says ‘Hey your infrastructure is old, you need to update it.’ That makes sense because you have public health issue with failing sewer systems.”

During the summer the village repaired the sewer line on Plattekill Avenue—a project of which was part of and funded by a DEC consent order. According to Rogers, the DEC gives a grant of either $600,000 or nothing. The village has applied for it again, and will find out in December if it is eligible for another $600,000.