KANSAS CITY, Mo — The number of faulty fire hydrants in Kansas City has hit a high, prompting the city council to pass an ordinance approving $3 million to fix them.
It's a massive job, so the KC Water Department needs help and has contracted with local constriction company Haines & Associates for extra hands.
The fire hydrant across the street from David Searcy’s home at East 49th Terrace and Marsh has had a white tag hanging from it for over a month, which is a sign to firefighters that the hydrant doesn't work.
“When it got real cold and the temperature dropped, it seemed like it was leaking," Searcy said Thursday as water crews replaced the hydrant. "Then they came out and looked at it. Now I see someone is here working on it now."
There are about 250 others in Kansas City that are in the same shape or worse, according to Aaron Balliet with the KC Water Department.
“There is over 25,000 hydrants in the city, and our goal is to keep it below 1 percent,” Balliet said of the number of broken hydrants. “We are right at that 1 percent, so although you see behind me we have plenty of crews out here repairing hydrants, that contract will help us supplement our crews to get them fixed and ready for fire protection and help us with water quality if needed.”
Hydrants like the one on State Line near Interstate 435 are used for more than fighting fires. They're also used for maintenance purposes, like flushing the water system and sampling points to test water quality.
It usually takes a day to replace a fire hydrant, unless bigger problems are found once crews get into the job, which was the case with the State Line hydrant.
“In talking to the supervisor, they are not only replacing the hydrant, they are replacing the hydrant, the valve to turn on and off the hydrant and all they way back to the main,” Balliet said.
It's an example of a one-day project quickly turning into a two-day job, which is one of the reasons the water department asked the city council for help by hiring an outside contractor.
“I feel safer now, I guess, in case there is a fire, then they can put the fire out,” Searcy said. “For the safety of the community and the people, I think that’s a real good deal.”
The Kansas City Council approved $3 million over the next three years for the fire hydrant replacement project. There's a good chance it won't cost that much nor take that long. Any money left over will go back into the water department budget.