FLINT TWP — Contracting out routine maintenance of fire hydrants could help the township fire department both physically and fiscally.
The work requires strenuous physical labor that sometimes causes back and shoulder injuries that can increase worker’s compensation claims and overtime costs, said Fire Chief John Ringwelski in his pitch to the township board on Aug. 12.
Ringwelski’s request to seek bids for the work was approved 5-0 by the township board minus the absence of treasurer Marsha Binelli and trustee Frank Kasle.
Ringwelski said he wants to seek bids to find out if it is more affordable to have the work bid out. The fire department has done it for as long as he can recall, in excess of 30 years, but other municipalities have it done by the Department of Public Works or other qualified companies.
Ringwelski said the peek time is fast approaching for semiannual maintenance on the township’s 1,500 fire hydrants including fall flow testing, winter checks, painting, repairing breaks and replacing broken hydrants.
Also, the townships hydrant system is aging with some of them in excess of 40 years old, he said. Hydrant repair crews aren’t getting in younger either which in recent years has led to more injuries as the workers had difficulty opening hydrants.
Winterizing hydrants involves pumping all the water out of the so they don’t freeze up during the winter, he said. About a dozen hydrants fill up on their own and some take as many as four tries to shut back off, he said.
“This request will hopefully reduce injuries while providing more time to conduct public education and fire prevention in the community,” Ringwelski said.
He explained that fall/winter hydrant maintenance duties coincide with October as Fire Safety Month when fire staff is already busy with requests for community education engagements.
Bid specs would be in compliance with hydrant inspection standards set by American Water Works and Genesee County, Ringwelski said.
Responding to questions from the township board, Ringwelski also said some hydrants have to be replaced after being damaged by vehicles.