Representatives from an engineering and energy services company attended a workshop with the Town of Duncan Sept. 7 to catch council members up on their latest work on behalf of the town.

Back in May, the council voted to have Veregy look at the town’s mechanical and electrical systems to see if they need to be repaired or improved with an eye toward cost savings. Veregy was also asked to analyze solar and renewable energy opportunities.

In June, Veregy told council members that after inspecting the town’s buildings and water and wastewater systems they were recommending the town allow them to seek grant funding that would pay for a $2.5 million-$3 million for the water softener/meter reading system, $600,000-$1.2 million wastewater overhaul and $200,000-$400,000 in building upgrades.

On Tuesday, council members heard Veregy has completed two of nine grant applications and met with Freeport-McMoRan as part of its grant application process. The largest grant application, one to the USDA, was expected to be filed by Sept. 10.

Dick Williams, a representative of Midstate Energy, which falls under the Veregy umbrella, and his colleagues Justin Rundle and Edward Farrell, also told council members they are no longer recommending a water softening system. More extensive study of the town’s water revealed that although the water is hard it’s not as hard as originally thought in the primary well and it’s comparable to many other towns in Arizona.

The town’s water is so hard it’s caused tuberculation, meaning there’s scaling inside the pipes. The scaling is disrupting the flow of the water, particularly in the Hunter Estates area, which includes Duncan Elementary School. It’s also impacting everyone’s meters and likely providing inaccurate readings, the Veregy representatives said.

If the town receives enough grant funding, all of the town’s 340 water meters would be replaced with ones that can be read accurately and remotely and result in automated billing. Various tanks and other components of the town’s water and sewage system would also be replaced.

This week, workers will be conducting an audit on the residential meters. The town currently doesn’t have serial numbers and sizes for them, nor do they know how many meters that are supposed to be locked out due to non-payment have inoperable locks.

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Veregy is also trying to determine what percentage of the town’s water is being used for parks, flushing hydrants and other non-revenue-raising reasons, Williams said. In most towns, it’s 5-15%, but it could be 10-20-40% in Duncan, he said.

The hope is Veregy and the town will know the status of its grant funding soon. Veregy hopes to sign a contract with the town by Oct. 22 so projects can start next May.

The town council met for its regular meeting on Sept. 9. During that meeting, the council agreed to hire Tierra Water Management to assist new water lab director Patsy Dixon rebuild lab operations. The town temporarily had to suspend operations after John Basteen, interim town manager, quit and Town Clerk Isabel Blancarte was terminated.

According to current interim town manager Philip Cushman, they had to “solve performance problems and get into full compliance with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality standards.”

Dixon explained that the town conducts water quality tests for more than 50 clients monthly. Roughly half of them are people who own private wells and the others are comprised of government organizations and businesses, among them the Town of Clifton, the Mt. Graham Observatory, the federal prison in Safford and various school districts and RV parks.

The ADEQ requires monthly, quarterly and annual reports from many of the town’s clients and with the upheaval at Town Hall, not all of the required paperwork could be found, Dixon said.

Tierra Water Management will be collecting samples while three town employees obtain the needed certification to do the work themselves and the company is also working with ADEQ to ensure all of the proper paperwork has been turned in, Dixon said.

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