Umatilla to address city's aging water system

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UMATILLA, Fla. - Umatilla leaders must decide what to do about the city's aging water system.

Last fall a 40-year old water line broke and service was cut off to all 3,600 residents. Officials are now working to decide what repairs city water customers can afford.

Either way, city leaders said the underground pipes are past their prime and something needs to be done.

In October water service was out across all of Umatilla after a 10-inch line installed in the 1970s cracked under Kentucky Avenue. Now officials worry where the aging system will fail next.

"Well I'm not sure what they should do," said resident Phyllis English. "But I do feel like, I think my rates are high enough, and I'm not in favor of paying more money."

But it's likely the city's residents will have to pay more, Channel 9's Berndt Petersen learned.

The city is looking at a wide range of options, from $20,000 to repair a few hundred cutoff valves, to a multi-million dollar makeover.

"Price is believed to be about $8 million to replace the entire system," said City Manager Glenn Irby. "That's not doable, not on the backs of the taxpayers today."

But Irby says it will have to be done some day, because most of the underground lines are 40 to 60 years old.

Petersen learned the city could cut the $8 million cost in half if city employees did the work.

"The problem with that is that it could take up to 13 years with a four-man crew," said Irby. "And that's about what we could afford, a four-man crew."

Water customers hope whatever is done doesn't cost too much.

"I'm a single person and I don't use that much water," said English. "But I do pay dearly for the water I do use and I don't want to pay any more."