Pickerington is re-investing the money it receives from city utility consumers into the city's infrastructure by maintaining and painting 200 fire hydrants.
Pickerington City Council is to hear a first reading of an ordinance March 5 that, if passed, will allow the city to contract with Neptune Equipment to service the hydrants at a cost of $48 per hydrant.
City Manager Bill Vance said re-investing utility funds into the city is a good idea and something consumers of city water should expect.
"Those funds are supposed to be invested back into the system," said Vance at City Council's Service Committee meeting Feb. 28.
Some members of the committee questioned the propriety of having Neptune Equipment paint the 200 hydrants, positing that such work can be done by city workers in-house, thus saving the city money on the contract.
"Can't we paint 100 hydrants a year and (do it) internally?" asked Councilman Jeff Fix, the committee chairman.
Vance said his proposal is having a contracted crew of four or five people to paint the hydrants. He said doing so frees up city workers to perform other essential tasks.
"I'm all for maintenance on fire hydrants, if (they're) old and rusty, but that's different than (aesthetics). I could go paint a fire hydrant," Fix said.
Councilman Tony Barletta, a committee member, said a Boy Scout troop provided labor and materials to paint the hydrants in the Summerfield subdivision.
"I'm not excited to (pay for) four or five guys to paint fire hydrants," Fix said.
Vance said the three workers in the city's utility division "always have something to do."
He said painting as many hydrants as possible is important in that bright hydrants are more visible to safety services and they beautify the city.
"Three guys can (paint) 50 a year or we can contract with guys to do 200 a year," Vance said.
He said the purpose of collecting utility funds was to use them for hydrant maintenance, including painting, "as opposed to the money going into the bank."
"If we want to scale back and do the least possible, then reduce the water rates," Vance said.
Fix told Vance that as City Manager "this is your responsibility, do what you think best."
City Services Manager Ed Drobina said the city has budgeted $25,000 overall, 1 percent of the city's operating budget, for valve and hydrant maintenance.
"Tasks to be performed within the budgeted amount was some hydrant painting, main valve repair, and the replacement of some old hydrants that we can no longer get replacement parts (for)," Drobina said.
He said valve maintenance is imperative in that "we have areas where bolts on the main valve have corroded and need replaced. Our thought was to plan the repair of these valves prior to a leak developing."
Drobina said Pickerington has a total of 937 fire hydrants.
"My plan was to divide the city into four sections and paint all the hydrants in the section where the worst looking hydrants are located," he said.
Vance stated he and the city's utility service staff "remain very appreciative of City Council budgeting $25,000 in 2013 to initiate an annual city fire hydrant painting, inspection and maintenance program."