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Sat, March 23

Residents: City should look at alternatives to Indian Hill tank

PRESCOTT - For decades, gravity has been the force that has fueled much of the city's water delivery system.

As a means of saving energy, the city traditionally has located its water storage tanks on hilltops throughout the community.

Not only does the practice save energy costs, city officials say, but it also increases delivery reliability, because the water has only to run downhill to get to homes and businesses.

But many of the residents who live near Indian Hill maintain that the gravity-feed method has outlived its usefulness, and the city should be moving onto more modern practices.

That was just one of the points that came up among the more than 50 residents who turned out for a neighborhood meeting Thursday night on the city's controversial plans to expand its water-storage capacity on Indian Hill in southwest Prescott.

Tim Burkeen, the Prescott Public Works Departments' project manager, explained that the city has split its water delivery area into a number of zones. In order to keep enough water flowing to all of the inter-related zones, Burkeen said the city must increase the size of the Indian Hill tank.

The original recommendation was to replace the existing two tanks, which hold 200,000 gallons each, with a 2-million-gallon tank. But Burkeen said officials realized early on that "there is not physically room for a 2-million-gallon tank" on the hill.

That led the city to explore several other hilltop options, Burkeen said - all to no avail.

To preserve the balance in the delivery system, Burkeen said a new site would have to be the same elevation as Indian Hill's 5,710-foot height.

"Having explored all of these options, we realized we don't have all that many, and we took another look at Indian Hill," he added. "That's how we came up with the 1.33-million-gallon tank."

But many of the residents who spoke doubted whether the city had really exhausted all of its options.

Indian Hill-area resident Debra Kaukol summed up the views of many of her neighbors when she said of the 1.33-million-gallon tank: "It's ugly, it's big, and it doesn't have to be here."

Kaukol and others contended that the city should be looking beyond its hilltops to other options, such as underground tanks with pump stations.

"We don't have to keep going down this same road of ruining our mountains," Kaukol said. "It's time to start getting on with the 21st century and get away from gravity feed."

Others in the audience suggested that the Indian Hill neighborhood was not the appropriate site for the expanded water-storage capacity, because the historic area was not driving the growth that made it necessary.

William Jenkins - while denying that his views represented NIMBY (not in my backyard) -ism, because "the existing tanks are already in my backyard" - maintained that new development was creating the need for the new tanks for which the city is planning.

"These tanks should be placed in those neighborhoods," Jenkins said of the newly developing areas. "It shouldn't be happening in an old neighborhood that is established."

Audience questions also arose about the danger to the residents downhill from the tank in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake or terrorist attack.

Burkeen noted that the city's consultant engineers had researched seismic activity in the area, and were designing the new tank to the highest available standards to withstand an earthquake.

Other issues that arose included the city plans to build what residents termed a "cell tower farm" alongside the water tank, and the trenching that would be necessary for the installation of an accompanying 20-inch water line.

While nearly all of the speakers expressed opposition to the expanded tank, the city plans did elicit support from one of the neighbors.

Area resident Stephen Knight, who said he was an evacuee during Prescott's 2002 Indian Fire, told the group, "I go to bed every night comfortable, because I know I'm going to have water if there's a fire up there."

The matter likely will go to the City Council within the next month or so for discussion about recommendations from the Prescott Preservation Commission, as well as the water tank and water line/pump station construction contracts.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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