As the city pursues a campaign to persuade citizens to clean up their properties, officials also should look to its own appearance and paint the rusting fire hydrants that dot city streets, Alderman Ed Gass said.
For the past several months, Gass has discussed the condition of the fire hydrants at each board meeting. He wants the city to ﬁnd the resources to paint them.
In the last official counting in 2011, there were 428 hydrants in the city. With growth since then, the number could be nearing 500.
Traditionally fire hydrants are painted bright colors to help the fire department spot hydrants when approaching a fire scene, particularly in rainy or snowy weather.
The bodies of the hydrants are yellow and the bonnets are color-coded, with red, orange or green, that tell firefighters the size of the water main.
The city has not had a program to repaint all the hydrants in recent years. For many of them, the paint is peeling or turned to rust and Gass is concerned with how they look.
Speaking at the Aug. 7 board meeting, Gass said the appearance of the hydrants should be a concern to officials because it’s an indication that leaders are not taking care of the city.
Fire Marshal Ken Prichard told The Missourian that in spite of their appearance most of the hydrants are in working order. Fireﬁghters test each hydrant once a year.
“We test every hydrant annually and send a list of any where we ﬁnd fault to Robert Brueggemann (public works commissioner),” Prichard said. “The rust that you see won’t keep them from working. As long as the insides are maintained they work ﬁne when there is a ﬁre.”
The 2017 inspection report listed 18 hydrants that had faults and four that needed immediate attention.
Brueggemann said it’s his department’s responsibility to maintain the hydrants, which includes painting. His crews take the fire department inspection report seriously and attend to each hydrant.
“It’s not that there isn’t enough money to paint them. It’s about how to find the time,” Brueggemann said. “We usually paint a few each year but there isn’t time to schedule to paint all of them at one time.”
Gass asked City Administrator Steve Roth to hire someone part time to help paint the hydrants, but Roth said there is no money in the budget to hire help.
Gass suggested that the city request volunteer help for the project from the high school or the prison.
A bit of research revealed that volunteers paint fire hydrants in many cities.
In the city of Salem, Ore., volunteers paint the fire hydrant in a program administered by the public works department. The city supplies the paint and posts the program on its website to attract volunteers.
In Thornton, Colo., fire hydrant painting is a group volunteer program conducted by the Boy Scouts or church groups of five volunteers. The volunteers select the location and notify residents near the hydrants that they will be painting the hydrants on a certain date. The city then supplies drop cloths, masks, goggles, safety cones and paint.
In Fort Wayne, Ind., the city pays neighborhood associations $5 per hydrant to paint the hydrants and the city supplies the paint. Officials there say the volunteer painting program enables city utilities’ crews to focus on fixing and maintaining water lines and providing other services to customers.
Gass said the city of Pacific needs to find a way to paint the hydrants.