BPU: Copper or plastic? - Commission talks pipe materials
The Brainerd Public Utilities Commission Tuesday morning discussed a possible change in materials for water service lines. Kent Roessler of real estate development company Paxmar approached the commission during the public forum portion of the me...
The Brainerd Public Utilities Commission Tuesday morning discussed a possible change in materials for water service lines.
Kent Roessler of real estate development company Paxmar approached the commission during the public forum portion of the meeting to discuss the change. Paxmar is building houses in Brainerd Oaks, Serene Pines and Dal-Mar Estates, and plans to continue building homes in the developments in the coming years.
Roessler asked the commission about the water service lines which run from the water main line in the middle of the street to the house. The portion of the line running from the main to the curb is the responsibility of BPU, while the portion of the line running from the curb to the house is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Roessler asked if the commission would consider allowing Paxmar to use plastic instead of copper for the portion of the service line running from the curb to the home. Currently, BPU requires this portion of the line to be made of copper, he said.
Plastic has been widely used for this application for 30 years throughout the state of Minnesota, Roessler said. Copper is more expensive and adds extra costs to the home, he said, and plastic is easier to work with.
"We feel it's a better product and that there's actually less problems with it than copper," Roessler said.
Copper pipe costs about $6 per foot, Roessler said, whereas plastic pipe costs around $1 per foot. When copper prices rise, it makes copper pipe at a construction site a prime target for thieves, he said. Plastic pipe is safe to drink out of, he said, and it doesn't corrode.
"Just about every other municipality allows it," Roessler said. "I think it's going to be something that's something of the future."
The utility uses copper pipe for service lines because it doesn't chlorinate the water, commission member Bill Wroolie said. Roessler said he didn't realize the water wasn't chlorinated.
"We're kind of stubborn that way," commission member Mark O'Day said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health's Drinking Water Protection division, Brainerd is one of the few remaining water systems of its size in the state to not chlorinate its water.
Commission President Dolly Matten said she was concerned about the homeowner being notified of the plastic pipe. The homeowner should be made aware the pipe isn't copper, she said, in case there was ever an issue.
"If our crews are accustomed to servicing water freeze ups a certain way, and they're unaware that this is plastic," Matten said. "All of a sudden, we damage something because we didn't know it was plastic."
Plastic is already being used for water pipes inside houses, Roessler said, so water will run through plastic pipes on private property no matter what. The service line running from the curb to the home is owned by the homeowner, he said, and isn't on public property. The line running from the water main in the street to the curb will remain copper, he said.
"It would be a simpler build for the houses," Roessler said. "And I honestly believe that it would be a better build for the houses long term."
Roessler suggested allowing Paxmar to use plastic pipe as a test to see how it works. Commission member Don Samuelson said he'd like to see a demonstration of plastic pipe, to see if it would do any harm.
The utility would have to change its policy to allow plastic pipe, O'Day said. If an exception is made for one request, more requests to use plastic pipe will come in, secretary/finance director Todd Wicklund said.
The commission agreed to have staff compile information on the issue and revisit the water service line policy at the July meeting.
Heard a report from Brainerd City Administrator Jim Thoreen. On April 17, the Brainerd City Council declared a motel building in downtown Brainerd at 507 South Sixth St. hazardous. The building's owner, Julian Jayasuriya of DBM Two Partnership LLC, had 30 days to remove the motel or 20 days to answer or challenge the resolution.
Jayasuriya's attorney filed a notice of appeal on May 12 and there will be a court hearing on the appeal, Thoreen said. Jayasuriya has found an engineer who claims the building is structurally sound, Thoreen said.
"We very strongly disagree," Thoreen said.
Headley Williamson, chair of the board of directors of Exodus Boys Academy, has applied for a conditional use permit to open a boarding school in a vacant hotel building at 2115 S. Sixth St., Thoreen said. The private boarding school for boys would open with 60 students in two grades, Thoreen said. Williamson said via email on April 24 a purchase agreement for the building had been signed.
In other business, the commission:
Approved the 2016 audit report as presented by Mary Reedy from CliftonLarsonAllen. There were no difficulties encountered when performing the audit, Reedy said, which resulted in a clean or unmodified opinion. She noted there were no material weaknesses when it came to compliance and internal control over the utility's financial reporting. There was an overall positive cash flow from operations, she said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified commission member Don Samuelson as Don Jacobson.
The Dispatch regrets the error.