Work is likely needed on elevated storage tank

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

The City of Orange Grove was given a clean opinion on its audit report Feb. 20 during the regular city council meeting at Orange Grove City Hall.

Certified Public Accountant Paul Peeler conducted the city audit and through his results, found the city did operate according to established accounting standards as defined by the law.

Since the presentation was not on the agenda, Peeler presented the information to the board during the public comments section of the meeting.

During the regular monthly meeting, council members also received a presentation by Paul Pilarczyk with Naismith Engineering concerning the state of Orange Grove's water system.

He provided a brief review regarding repair and maintenance of the water tower. His recommendations included information on both repair and placement of the existing water tower.

Pilarczyk said the cost of repairing the existing elevated storage tank is estimated at $175,000.

He said the tank will reach its service capacity in 17 years, as projected by the number of connections made over the last few years.

The current elevated tank holds 100,000 gallons of water.

The cost of replacing the tank with an new one of the same capacity is estimated at $410,000. A new 150,000-gallon tank would cost $475,000, and would reach service capacity for the Orange Grove area in about 30 years. A new 200,000-gallon tank would cost $555,000 and reach capacity in 39 years, according to estimates.

The minimum requirements by the Texas Commissioner on Environmental Quality state an elevated storage tank must hold at least 100 gallons per connection. With 681 connections the city currently services, that would be 68,100 gallons, well under the current tank capacity.

Pilarczyk noted several areas on the tower that needed maintenance attention, such as the wind rod turnbuckle, riser bowl junction balcony floor splice plate, balcony handrails and the bottom of the vent structure and the interior wall. All the areas mentioned have corrosion or rust issues to some extent.

Pilarczyk recommended repairing the elevated storage tank, which if properly maintained with maintenance inspections at no longer than five-year intervals, could lead to a tank life of another 38 years. The old water tank, which had a 50,000-gallon capacity, was in service for 56 years, he said.

According to the connection estimates, Pilarczyk said the city will eventually need additional elevated storage capacity, once it passes 1,000 connections. He recommended the city re-run WaterCAD Models to determine the pressure and flow capabilities for the city and implement plans to upgrade the lines in the system to improve flows and pressures in deficient areas.

Since it was part of the public comments section, the council could take no action on the item, but Mayor Seale Brand said he along with City Administrator Rick Lopez would look into the issue with engineers this week.

Under action items, the council approved an order of election for the city's May General Election.

This year, Brand, councilman Noe Aguilar and councilman Carl Srp are up for re-election. As of Tuesday, no candidate has signed up for the May election.

The council also approved having Raymond Bartosch begin maintenance on the police department vehicles. Bartosch currently performs maintenance for the Orange Grove Volunteer Fire Department vehicles. As per the arrangement, Bartosch would provide the labor, and the city will provide the supplies. The relationship will be on a trial basis for the next eight months, at which time the council will receive a report from Police Chief Karl Van Slooten concerning the maintenance and on whether a more permanent arrangement should be approved.

The council approved the proposal to allow Orange Grove Police Chief Karl Van Slooten to be able to sign checks at the Orange Grove Value Bank for the Police Department accounts.

Afterward, the council approved a proposal by Raul Gonzalez, the Operations Management Specialist with the Community Resource Group out of Brownsville, to perform a utility rate study at no cost to the city. Gonzalez has performed similar services for other small communities across South Texas.

The city council members all welcomed the arrangement, which would benefit the city greatly, members said. Gonzalez also stated that he may be in a position to help the city with seeking funding for different projects. Brand asked Gonzalez to get together with Lopez on those possibilities, to hammer out and discuss further details.