The City of Aiken Engineering and Utilities Department sits reactive on the infrastructure maintenance scale, but needs to move toward preventive and then toward predictive, according to Director George Grinton.
Grinton shared with City Council and staff during a budget workshop the department's goals and priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
Three goals include complying with S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations, securing long-term system and optimizing the department's operations.
One of the main budget issues is to come up with a water study to better understand sustainability, Grinton said.
He recalled a water study done in 2002, from which many of the current Capital Sales Tax projects came. But some of those predictions have not come to fruition.
“Some of the issues they thought would occur haven't come to fruition,” Grinton said. “Like any strategic plan, we need to update it periodically ... I'd like to see a water study to understand sustainability. We're not just talking about five years, but looking at 20 to 30 years. That will be where the pressure comes from as more people come around.”
One of the department's successes is in the reduction of time it takes to complete specific work orders.
City Manager Richard Pearce said the department has only seven pending leaks, which is a better number than documented in the past.
The City does face a dilemma due to a cut in water production on the basis of demand, Councilman Dick Dewar said.
Customers are now purchasing products like water-efficient washing machines, which reduces the amount of water used to clean a load of laundry.
“If we're producing half of what we were producing, conversely, it means we're only selling half,” Dewar said. “That puts the stress big time on the rates we're charging, and it's only going to get worse.”
But Grinton said the department is getting better at controlling the workload.
“You've (Grinton) done a great job,” Dewar said. “It's probably the best budget we've seen in a while from Engineering and Utilities.”
The last Council public budget workshop will be held for the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department on Thursday at 4 p.m. in room 204 on the second floor of the Municipal Building, located at 214 Park Ave.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.