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At a public meeting on Jan. 31 called to provide information about a water main replacement project, EPCOR Water officials were quickly criticized by residents for the lack of information they were providing.

EPCOR has plans to replace about a mile of 12-inch water main within the Sundridge Drive right of way and with the project slated to begin within a couple of weeks, some residents wondered why they were just hearing about it. Some, but reportedly not all, residents received a notice in the mail earlier in the week notifying them of the meeting.

Rick Alvarez, project manager for EPCOR, had outlined the plan before the Town Council in December, and he reiterated that information before the residents at the meeting Jan. 31. However, there remain some gaps in the details of the project that a number of residents thought needed to be answered.

A key element of the plan still pending is a traffic plan to include detours, barricading and flagging plan. Eric French, engineering manager for EPCOR, said those plans are submitted to the town by the contractor and normally last minute. The traffic plan needs a permit from the Town of Fountain Hills, and as of the meeting the plan had not been submitted for review, according to Public Works Director Justin Weldy. He said typically approval takes no more than a day or two.

Also, the project is divided into four phases, each to take a month to six weeks. A separate traffic plan will be submitted for each phase closer to the time construction is to begin on that phase.

While they could not specify at the meeting what the approved permits would look like, Alvarez said the traffic plans will include northbound detours through the neighborhood using Manzanita, Sunset and Mesquite drives. French added that their objective is to keep Sunridge open with at least one lane during the entirety of the project. There will be no work in the southbound lanes so they will remain open or used to flag alternating traffic in both directions.

SunRidge concern

Don Misheff, owner of the SunRidge Golf Club and Wicked Six restaurant said he is concerned about the timing of the project and wondered whether the project might be delayed until after winter visitors have departed for the season. Misheff said February and March are his busiest months and does not want to inconvenience customers. He said the construction project could significantly damage his business for the season.

Alvarez said the summer option was considered in planning. However, he said due to the number of breaks the company decided to target the replacement for the first quarter. He also noted that water demand increases in the summer months.

“We thought it would be best in the first quarter,” Alvarez said.

The construction manager for Degan Construction, the contractor for the work, said there will be only brief interference with the driveway into the club, and even with that it will remain open throughout the project.

Misheff said he is most concerned about the phase at the top of the hill from Palisades to CopperWynd Resort Drive, which is slated for the March timeline. Officials said the road would remain open through the work schedule.

Work phasing

The project will be done in four phases beginning with 1,500 feet south from Desert Canyon Drive to Sunset Drive.

Phase II will be a section from the Palisades intersection 400 feet down the hill to the line that has already been replaced.

Phase III will cover 700 feet from Clubhouse Drive to Manzanita Lane.

Phase IV will be the remaining 1,700 feet between Sunset Drive and Manzanita Lane.

Work is scheduled to begin at the north end at the Desert Canyon intersection within a couple of weeks. Completion is expected in June, but delays could take it to late summer.

The water line along Sunridge Drive has been a particular problem with several ruptures over the past few years.

“We have had to make multiple emergency repairs to this line, including one where a responding fire truck fell through the sinkhole left by the break,” Alvarez said.

He said that when the SunRidge Canyon subdivision was built about 20 years ago the water main was improperly installed with inadequate bedding for the pipe. In the rocky ground, with routine movement from pressure fluctuations, rocks have worked holes into the plastic pipe.

A portion of the line from just below Palisades Boulevard to the entrance to the SunRidge Canyon Golf Club has already been replaced.

EPCOR will use a 12-inch iron pipe for the replacement. The iron will be more durable in the rocky ground when properly installed.

Alvarez said EPCOR has spent about $700,000 in emergency repairs on the line, and the replacement project has a $2.7 million project.