Ravenswood officials are looking at a $5-million upgrade to the city’s water infrastructure in order to head off the catastrophic failure that would occur if the system was allowed to age unchecked.

The project was discussed during Tuesday’s Ravenswood City Council meeting. The meeting was conducted at the Ravenswood Volunteer Fire Department in order to accommodate increased attendance as a result of the discussion of the water project.

Currently, the city has 116,000 linear feet of water main lines, three 500,000-gallon water tanks, and a hydro pneumatic pumping station.

“The system is beginning to show its age,” said Wayne Hypes of Dunn Engineering Inc., the firm contracted to design the upgrades.

First, the tanks must be recoated to prevent failure caused by corrosion, Hypes said.

“They’re in desperate need of re-coating so that we can save the tanks and do not need to replace them,” he said.

If the tanks are not re-coated, it would cost $300,000 or more to replace just one, Hypes said.

The project also will include the replacement of 3,000 feet of water line and 30 gate valves. The gate valves are of particular concern because they currently are not functioning correctly.

Mayor Josh Miller said about a week before he took over as mayor, there was a bad leak on the north side of town. Workers had to shut off the water supply to half the town because of faulty gate valves, he said.

The project also will involve replacing 1,808 manual-read water meters with new radio-read meters, Hypes said.

It currently takes a city worker three weeks to manually read all of the meters in town. With modern radio-read meters, that work can be done in an hour, Miller said.

The more modern units also are much more efficient at tracking abnormal water usage, so if there is a leak it can be identified much more quickly, Hypes said.

In addition to replacing water lines, valves and meters, the water treatment facility is in need of repair and upgrade. An emergency generator is needed so electricity can be supplied in the event of a power outage, Hypes said.

“Right now, when the power is out, your water goes down,” he said.

The project also would involve installing a telemetry system that would allow, among other things, the remote monitoring of water levels in the storage tanks.

Finally, upgrades would include the ability for citizens to pay their bills via debit or credit card, as well as the ability to pay online.

The city is applying for a USDA loan to finance the project, which will provide a significant savings versus the cost of going through private borrowers, Miller said.

Officials hope construction can begin on the project by this time next year.

The upgrade will result in increased water bills, but even after the increase, Ravenswood will still have the lowest water bills in the area, Miller said.

The breakdown is as follows: Ripley $28.96, North Jackson County $31.31, Southern Jackson County $39.72, WV American Water $49.24, Mineral Wells $38.90, Ravenswood (current) $13.15, and Ravenswood (after) $23.55. 

This estimate is based current information and may be subject to change.

One thing is certain, something must be done about the city’s aging infrastructure, Miller said. It has been too long since these problems have been addressed, he said.

“I’ve been very open about it: We’ve been living in a bubble for a very long time,” Miller said.

Ravenswood resident Gary Cross said he believes these problems must be addressed now.

“I’m highly in favor of this project. We’ve needed this for several years,” he said.