New Perry Water Works superintendent in the swim

Matt Holmes, center, attended his first meeting Thursday as the Perry Water Works superintendent. Also attending were, from left, Water Works Trustee John Wuebker, Water Works Accounting and Billing Manager Pam Ballard, Chair of the Water Works Trustees Marcus Carris and Water Works Trustee Amy Rathje.

Matt Holmes
Hank Schmidt

Perry Water Works Superintendent Matt Holmes attended his first meeting Thursday of the Perry Water Works Board of Trustees since assuming the top job in the city’s water department.

Holmes now occupies the spot held since 2010 by Hank Schmidt, who stepped down from the superintendency June 30 but will continue with the Perry Water Works as a plant operator.

As part of the personnel shuffle, Holmes suggested splitting the water works foreman position in two, with a chief treatment plant operator and a distribution system foreman each responsible for one-half of the busy operating system. The trustees approved the recommendation.

Holmes also reviewed for the trustees the three simultaneous water main breaks that occurred June 28: one break in an eight-inch water main at Dewey Avenue and Vine Street, which resulted in a five-day boil order for five customers, and a second break in a four-inch main at 2621 Warford St.

The third rupture occurred in a three-inch water main at Eighth and Warford streets, a break that surprised Water Works workers, Holmes said.

“There was not supposed to be a three-inch water main there,” he said, “so we’re still not certain exactly what that was. There’s an eight inch that runs east and west and a four inch going north and another four inch going south, and this one teed off one of those four inches as a three inch for some reason. We decided at the time — there was enough going on, and we didn’t know what it went to — to not abandon it. We probably could have abandoned it but without doing more research, we’re better off to not run somebody out of water when we already have two to three other water main breaks going on at the same time.”

The breaks occurred at the unexpected coincidence of two conditions: when the Perry water tower was off line for maintenance and when Tyson Fresh Meats needed to draw 100 percent of its water supply from the Perry muncipal system.

“The water tower was taken out of service to be cleaned and inspected,” Holmes said, “which played a role in all these water main breaks as well. The good news out of that is that we had a clean report on the water tower, so no major expenses coming up there.”

Looking forward, construction is set to start next week on the 2019 water main replacement project on Perry’s east side. The 20-block job will see the laying of about 526 linear feet of 10-inch pvc water main, 1,349 linear feet of 8-inch water main and 2,936 linear feet of 6-inch water main.

The pipe-laying project will involve several work sites:

  • 15th Street from Iowa Street to Willis Avenue
  • 16th Street from Iowa Street to Willis Avenue
  • Otley Avenue from 16th to 17th streets
  • 17th Street from Donna Drive to Eastern Avenue
  • Eastern Avenue from 17th to 18th streets
  • Willis Avenue between 18th and 26th streets

The project includes new fire hydrants; valves, water service pipe and curb stops; surface restoration and miscellaneous associated work, including cleanup.

The contract for the water main construction project was awarded by the Perry Water Works Trustees June 13 to Busy Bee Construction LLC. The company’s bid of $621,815 was below the engineer’s estimate of $900,000 for the work.


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