Board backs plan to invest $20,000 in water monitoring upgrades

Ozaukee Press staff

Grafton’s Board of Public Works has recommended spending $20,000 to complete two aspects of a water system radio monitoring system upgrade.

The 20-year-old supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) radio system — which alerts village staff members of issues with village wells, pumps and the wastewater treatment facility —  has experienced 1,000 communication failures between August 2020 and September 2021, and village staff members say improvements are necessary.

Assistant Utility Director and engineer Brecken Gries said the piecemeal system recently lost contact for about a day, requiring village staff members to spend 24 hours checking every pump, well and lift station to ensure the system was operating properly.

She added that outages have also occurred in the evening or over weekends, requiring staff members to work for overtime pay while resolving the issue.

Gries said other times the system will receive hundreds of false alarms, which staff routinely cancel.

“Some nights we will have hundreds and we’ll sit around and cancel them,” she said. “Then what value does it provide us if we just hit cancel? Is there one we are going to miss?”

The major issue with the system, Gries said, is a connection between a radio at the wastewater treatment facility and another radio tower. The radios require a clear line of sight to work properly but foliage or inclement weather often cause interruptions.

Another issue with the current system is that it operates on 900 megahertz bandwidth, which is saturated with users because it is free to use.

To improve the system, village staff members proposed two projects totaling $20,810. The projects would be completed by engineering firm Ruekert and Mielke in conjunction with Higgins Tower, Twin Cities Industrial Control and Terminal Andrae.

The first proposal is to acquire a $6,210 Federal Communications Commission license that would enable village radios to operate on a 450 megahertz bandwidth.

Dave Byer of Ruekert and Mielke said the 450 megahertz system would not require a line of sight and would operate with five watts of power compared to the single watt the systems runs on now. He said switching frequencies would dramatically improve the primary weakness of the village’s current system.

“Through years of struggling with your radio system, we have determined the weak point of your radio network now is the link between the tower and the plant,” Byer said. “You’ll have much better results with this proposed radio network.”

The second proposal is for TCIC to conduct a $14,600 radio network design and site survey.

Byer said the study will determine what radio equipment is needed and where it should be located for a new system to operate effectively.

The two projects were unanimously recommended to the Village Board by the Board of Public Works on April 11. If approved, the project will be financed through $225,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds designated for the radio upgrade.

Gries said once the system study is complete, the village will have a better understanding of what the total equipment and labor costs of the new radio system will be.

Proposals for other phases of the project will be brought to the Board of Public Works following completion of the study.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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