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BPU Saw ‘Low Amount’ Of Disruptive Water Main Breaks In ’23

Pictured is David Leathers, Jamestown Board of Public Utilities general manager, who spoke to the Jamestown City Council during this week’s work session. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

The Jamestown Board of Public Utilities had a good year when it came to disruptive water main breaks.

David Leathers, BPU general manager, on Monday discussed breaks and other utility-related matters during a Jamestown City Council work session. His comments were part of periodic updates given to city officials.

Leathers said crews already have had to deal with “a few” water main breaks this year. The last occurred Sunday on West Second Street.

“We continue to chase those a little bit here to date,” Leathers said, before acknowledging that 2023 saw fewer breaks than in past years.

“I don’t want to say it was a historic low, but we had a low amount of water main breaks. So that was really good,” he told City Council members. “As we continue to replace what we’ve identified as old and needing (to be) replaced lines, we’re hoping that shows up in the results related to main breaks and disruption for our customers.”

In his general overview, Leathers referenced the small increase this year in wastewater rates for BPU customers. No other division operated by the city utility — which includes water, solid waste, district heating and electric — had a rate increase approved for 2024.

Leathers said the BPU board also is bringing new members up to speed through orientation sessions scheduled to take place over the next couple of months. New to the board are Mayor Kim Ecklund, Council President Tony Dolce, Jeff Russell, Marie Carrubba and Ralph Wallace.

During the work session presentation, Councilman Bill Reynolds, R-Ward V, asked for an update on the awarding of $17.4 million for the BPU’s $23 million microgrid project.

Leathers said the BPU was currently in the middle of a three to four month process of negotiating with the state Department of Energy. As a result, he said Monday, the project has not yet kicked off.

In October, the U.S. Energy Department announced millions of dollars in federal aid from its Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program to assist the BPU.

During a presentation on the project last spring, Kris Sellstrom, BPU transmission and distribution manager, said the microgrid will provide electricity for public services, schools, shelters, the city’s hospital and local businesses during emergency situations. The federal assistance does require matching funds from the city.

Sellstrom told the City Council that additional aid has been included to replace underground infrastructure.

“There’s quite a bit of underground high-voltage power lines running throughout the city,” he said.

“They’re very expensive to replace. They’re difficult to get to; you have to dig up the street. So we’re really fortunate that some of that was qualified under the grant as well to get replaced.”

Funding also will be used for electrical vehicle charging stations.

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