The City at Work: A review of recent and ongoing Blaine public works projects

Published on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 by By Ian Ferguson

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It’s been a busy year at Blaine public works, and it’s far from over. After presenting the mid-year report to city council on August 19, public works director Ravyn Whitewolf explained in greater detail what her department has accomplished in 2013, and what projects have yet to be
completed.

All of the following projects are funded by electric, water and sewer ratepayers and by federal and state grants except where noted.

Electric
Power lines have been undergrounded along Jerome Street, and undergrounding projects along Yew Avenue and Pipeline Road are 50 percent completed.

“Our primary focus with the undergrounding is to increase reliability,” Whitewolf said. Undergrounded utilities aren’t subject to potential damage from storms and car accidents.

Electrical meters at 443 locations have been converted to new Sensus meters. These new radio-frequency meters allow operators to monitor the electrical system remotely, which means operators can instantly detect an outage or a spike. In the case of an outage, they can see the limits of the outage and more quickly determine where the problem is. The program to purchase and install the meters began in 2011, and is about 70 percent complete. “We’ve purchased all the meters and they should all be installed by the end of the year,” Whitewolf said.

Water
 A 4-inch water main along Harvey Road and Pipeline Road was upgraded to a high-pressure 12-inch main in mid-June. A letter will be sent to those property owners who haven’t yet upgraded to the higher-pressure line letting them know it’s available, and the 4-inch main will eventually be shut off.

An unused building next to the water tower on Semiahmoo Spit was moved and repurposed as a chlorine storage building at the Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility (LPWRF). The building was formerly used as a pump station.

Having determined the need for a chlorine storage building, public works got a quote from a contractor.

“The cost for a new building was prohibitive, but we realized we had a building that was relatively gutted and just sitting there, so we put it on a trailer and brought it over,” Whitewolf said. “It worked out well, with a very tangible cost savings as a result.”

The pump for Well 6 died, and the four homes it served were connected to a nearby well by pipes laying on the ground. Those pipes will be buried sometime in late September or early October.

Wastewater
A pump was replaced at Lift Station 10 in spring. The screens that filter out mid-size debris from water entering the LPWRF were fixed under warranty after drawn out negotiations with the manufacturer.

“Those screens were problematic from the get-go,” Whitewolf said. “It took some negotiating with the manufacturer and some strong will, but they came to the plate and now our screens are working better than ever, so we’re thrilled.”

The LPWRF has a minor leak in its basement. The building was constructed using sheet piles – sheets of corrugated steel driven into the ground – as basement walls, with concrete poured against them.

“Whenever you have two materials touching each other in construction, there tends to be leakage,” Whitewolf explained. A combination of grouts will be injected into the wall to seal the leak in September.
Stormwater

A large amount of debris was removed from the ditch on the north side of Semiahmoo Parkway.

“There’s a surprising amount of water coming off that hill and going into Semiahmoo Bay,” Whitewolf said. “That was a fairly large job.

Two services that public works provides often get overlooked: all city streets are swept weekly, and roadsides within city limits are mowed regularly.

Geotechnical work was completed for a regional pond to be located on the city-owned site of the former Blaine airport. The pond will provide stormwater retention services for any potential development at the site, and may also be a source of wetlands mitigation for any development that occurs within the watershed.

“Components of development at that site are a very big driver for the city,” Whitewolf said. “We’re working with planning and the rest of the city to make that property very attractive to a buyer.”

Street Fund
These projects were funded by the city street fund, public works ratepayers and/or grants. Tree branches encroaching on Semiahmoo Trail have been mostly cleared, making the trail a much nicer place to walk.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community, so we’re hoping to continue clearing tree branches along Drayton Harbor Road next year,” Whitewolf said.

Crosswalks and parking lines have been repainted citywide.

Two flashing traffic lights have been installed on top of the stop signs at the intersection of H Street and Peace Portal Drive.

The lights were fashioned by the city’s maintenance supervisor Leroy Dougall, who fabricated them from the red signal heads salvaged from the old Marine Drive traffic light.

“He took those lights, that weren’t really good for anything else, and helped increase the visibility of the stop signs at the H Street crossing,” said Bill Bullock. “It saved the city a few thousand dollars.”

The lights help increase the visibility of the stop signs, which Bullock said many people fail to see.

“We’ve got a pretty creative and talented workforce here,” Whitewolf said.

Begun in 2012, the H Street Revitalization project is now complete. Twenty-six new streetlights with high-efficiency LED bulbs were installed, the sidewalks were overhauled and the road surface was improved.

The Boblett sidewalk project, which will improve the area between Blaine schools and the future site of a new Rite-Aid store, is halfway done.

Concrete was poured for new sidewalks last week, and after a 10-day suspension of work, crews will begin planting trees along the street.

The project includes a  flashing light pedestrian crossing, similar to those seen at busy intersections in Bellingham.

Other major accomplishments this year include acquiring an easement to lay utility lines through the Martin property to east Blaine, demolition of hangar buildings along Boblett Street, demolition of the Orca Deck at Marine Park  (funded by the Parks and Cemetary Board).