An old network of buried water pipes usually left out of sight and far from the minds of residents will take center stage in Millbrae as officials discuss the condition of the city’s underground infrastructure.
The Millbrae City Council will host a special study session Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the Chetcuti Community Room discussing the state of the city’s water transportation system.
Most of Millbrae’s potable water pipes are more than six decades old and have suffered from years of deferred maintenance, said Mayor Reuben Holober, who believes more attention in coming years should be paid to administering overdue fixes.
“A lot of the work we have been doing are emergency repairs, and that is not the kind of work we should be doing,” he said.
Though no decision is slated to be made at the upcoming meeting, assuring the system is up to current code, seismically sound and adequate to accommodate the demands of a growing community are paramount concerns for officials, Holober said.
Holober said water main breaks have become increasingly common in Millbrae over recent years, enhancing the obligation of officials and residents to collaborate on a strategy to address issues plaguing the system.
“In the past the city hasn’t had a plan for replacing water pipes, so we are going to start that discussion,” he said.
Degrading underground infrastructure in Millbrae has come into focus recently following sewage spilling into residents’ homes caused by blockages in pipes connecting to the city’s system.
Three separate lawsuits were filed last year against the city by residents alleging their property was severely damaged when sewage began spewing from their toilets and flooding their homes.
Holober noted the discussion at the upcoming meeting will be specifically focused on the water system and did not comment on the sewage lawsuits, citing a city policy preventing officials from publicly discussing ongoing litigation.
Looking ahead, a primary concern for Holober are two large water storage tanks kept near Interstate 280. The two 5-million gallon containers are due to be replaced and officials are facing a decision whether to supplant them with two more similarly sized tanks, or a single 10-million gallon version.
Regardless of the action officials ultimately take, Holober said, assuring the tanks are properly addressed is a matter of public safety.
“There could be millions of gallons of water flowing down the hillside, and that is a huge risk,” he said.
Considering the variety of projects facing the city, Holober said officials will ultimately need to identify a plan for financing the fixes. He noted the fiscal difficulties facing the city have been compounded in recent years, as infrastructure fixes to the Hetch Hetchy system, which supplies Millbrae its water, has been passed along to rate payers.
Ultimately though, Holober said it is too early to begin discussions regarding funding for the projects until a more specific vision of the fixes needed can be identified.
“We want to make sure that we have a plan in place for water before we finalize any type of financing plans for that,” he said.
But considering the vitality of the health of the city’s underground infrastructure, Holober said it is imperative the community work together toward developing a plan for restoration.
“People notice parks and streets, but pipes underground, most people don’t know what their condition is,” he said. “It is important that people know about the condition of our water system and the repairs that are needed to get our system up to date.”
In other business at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting, officials will discuss a potential interest in building a seasonal ice rink for holiday skaters. Because talks are still in the formative stages, Holober was reticent to discuss details of the proposal, but said he looked forward to hearing the perspective of fellow officials.
“This is just one of several things we are discussing in terms of capital projects,” he said.
Energy for construction of a full-sized, year-round ice rink to host hockey and skating events has ramped up along the Peninsula in recent weeks, as Burlingame officials recently discussed allowing development of such a facility at the city’s Bayshore driving range.
The Burlingame City Council ultimately elected to hold off on making a final decision regarding the ice rink proposal, in favor of collecting more information about the variety of competing proposals for the property.
Ice rink advocates have also expressed interest in Millbrae officials building an ice rink as part of an effort to rebuild the city’s Community Center, which was demolished this summer in an arson fire.
Holober though said a fuller discussion of such a proposal will take place in coming months when officials host the next public discussion regarding the Community Center rebuild.
The Millbrae City Council meets for its study session 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the Chetcuti Room, 450 Poplar Ave. The regularly scheduled meeting will start an hour later in council chambers, 621 Magnolia Ave.
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