The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council last week supported the rebuilding of the town’s pump at the C-51 Canal that draws water into the community’s canals during the dry season.
Discussion of rebuilding the old pump and installing an automatic starter began with the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District last year when it was still an independent entity before being absorbed by the town.
In December 2018, the council deferred action on replacing the pump until it could get more bids on the work. The pump, which needs a major overhaul if not replacement, is the town’s sole source of back-pumping water from the C-51 Canal when water gets low in the town’s canals.
The timing of the electric pump operation is critical due to peak power demand, when electricity can be cost prohibitive. The proposals include a soft-start device that can be activated automatically when electric rates are lowest, eliminating the need for a staff member to come out and start the motor.
The issue came up again at the council’s Aug. 6 meeting as part of Town Engineer Larry Peters’ monthly report. Estimates for repairing the pump, motor and starting equipment is $48,100 for a new pump, or have the existing pump repaired at a cost between $12,160 minimum to $25,600 maximum, $6,900 to remove the shed roof and deliver the pump to the shop and back, and $19,387 for a new motor and starter and wiring.
“This proposal replaces the existing motor,” Mayor Robert Shorr said. “That’s what I want to talk about. Where are we on this? Time is of the essence being in the wet season. Are there funds allocated for this pump? I know that you’re looking at a new starter. To put new starters in old motors often is not a good idea.”
Shorr added that the contractor would need to pull the roof off the building in order to get to the pump and motor.
“This has to be done by the end of next month,” he said, explaining that when the dry season arrives, the town would have to wait another year to do the work. “It’s the wet season right now. If it doesn’t get done until next summer, we’re another year [without work on] a critical piece of equipment that we need very badly during the dry season.”
Peters said that to the best of his knowledge, money for the pump project, which the council approved at an earlier meeting, is in the budget.
“I don’t know if the council needs to take any action to make this move forward,” Shorr said. “It has been talked about for long enough.”
Peters added that there were three approved, competitive bids for the project, and Sullivan Electric was awarded the contract.
“The only reason we didn’t do it back then was because we used the pump every day,” he said. “We’re not using it now, so now is the time to fix it.”
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia asked if someone could be hired to remove the roof for the electricians, estimated in the contract at $6,900.
“There is,” Peters said. “We could do it ourselves, but we can only do so much.”
Councilwoman Laura Danowski, who previously worked at Sullivan Electric, said the company has all the equipment to do the job.
Peters clarified that the quote is for repair of the pump, a 150-horsepower motor and all the electrical controls.
“We won’t have to have a guy come in on Saturday and pay him overtime to turn the pump on,” Peters said. “This is a float switch, so when the water goes down, the pump comes on, and we can set it at any level we wish.”
Shorr said he was interested in looking at additional pumps to make the system more reliable.
“Maybe a duplicate or smaller pump,” he said. “These kinds of things we can look at in the future, but these things are made to last and they’re repairable.”
Councilman Dave DeMarois made a motion to approve up to $48,000 for the project, but during public comment, former Councilman Todd McLendon objected to the council taking action because the item had not been listed on the agenda.
“There weren’t three competitive bids on this project like it was stated,” McLendon said. “There were three contractors who bid on a certain thing, and then it got changed and added to… I’m completely against getting a new motor. That’s a waste of money. Yes, the motor is really old, but it is still working, so why mess with it?”
McLendon said he works on similar equipment, and the town should be able to get at least six bidders on such a project.
Maniglia agreed with McLendon, noting that she sat with McLendon on the council when it deferred action, withdrawing her second to the motion.
Peters said the final bids had been approved by an engineer, and Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said the only reason it was coming before the council for approval was that it exceeded the cost threshold for administrative approval.
Councilwoman Lisa El-Ramey said she would still like to see the other bids.
Titcomb suggested postponing the item to the next meeting, but Shorr asked Peters if he could locate the other bids that evening.
“Can you bring them tonight?” Shorr asked. “Can you go get them and bring this back later? This is the wet season. This is an emergency. It needed to happen a year ago.”
Peters agreed to find the other bids and produced them later in the meeting, as well as a letter from an engineer stating that he had chosen Sullivan Electric to do the work.
He added that McLendon had suggested adding floats to the new equipment, but he had not gone out for three additional bids on the project for a $1,200 item.
Maniglia restated her second to DeMarois’ motion, which then carried 5-0.