Unmetered water costs associated with water used for inspecting, flushing, and conducting flow tests
A sample method of calculating the labor cost is shown below. You can use a similar method for determining the cost for administrative labor (support, data entry, maintaining records, etc.) if any.
|Hourly rate for the worker
|Benefit cost rate for the city
|Hourly benefit rate
|Hourly rate with benefits
|Overhead factor rate for the city
|Calculated hourly rate per worker
The cost of operating the vehicle by the crew used must be considered (fuel, maintenance, etc.) Costs for the equipment may be calculated as a cost-per-mile rate for the vehicle used, hourly rate for the vehicle used, or allocated in some other manner as determined by the city.
Materials used (tools, repair parts, etc.) should be expensed as well.
I indicated that water is used in certain parts of inspecting, maintaining, and testing fire hydrants. This should be considered as water systems must account for unmetered water. The amount of water used will vary depending upon the type of test performed, static water pressure in the system, the size of the opening used, and the length of time water is flowing. As an example, a typical 5¼” barrel hydrant with a three-foot bury holds approximately seven (7) gallons of water. Therefore, if the only test performed is a static pressure test, the water used would be seven gallons. The cost of the water used may be small, but should be reported to the utility department so they can track it for their annual audit.
For safety, a two-person crew should be used for fire hydrant inspection, maintenance, repairs, and testing (when I was the fire chief in Germantown I had a firefighter suffer a broken leg when a 2½” cap blew off the hydrant and stuck him in the leg).
For a simple inspection and annual testing to verify proper operation, the crew may spend between 20 and 30 minutes with the hydrant. Maintenance and repairs will increase this time. The water department may be able to give typical repair times for different problems, such as replacing an operating nut or replacing a traffic connection.
Some utility companies charge a city or fire department for the use of fire hydrants. I found no concrete formula to use to determine an appropriate fee or charge, and the research done by other MTAS personnel shows that a fee in the range of $4.00-$5.00 per month, per hydrant, is common.
MTAS has a publication Water and Wastewater Management (http://www.mtas.tennessee.edu/KnowledgeBase.nsf/2efb230af01fb972852569d1007223c2/d821a3bb7a8fd4b7852578fe004e905c?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,Water,Wastewater,Management) and the following is copied from the publication:
Fire Hydrant Charges: Municipalities may elect to establish a charge from the water fund to the city general fund for fire hydrants. Usually the water system buys and installs fire hydrants. They are then “rented” by the city for use of the fire department. Water systems do not need fire hydrants to operate and many times incur additional distribution costs in order to install and maintain fire protection. Since this is for the benefit of the city, the general fund helps pay for this service.
MTAS has a publication available from Knowledgebase titled Utility Manual (http://www.mtas.tennessee.edu/KnowledgeBase.nsf/2efb230af01fb972852569d1007223c2/f9ed911a99a2e6cf85257a6f004dd798?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,utility,manual) and the following is copied from the publication:
Unmetered Services — Some user charges, such as fire hydrants and sprinklers, are unmetered. Flat charges are billed each month so that the service is available if needed. Usually these charges are based on the number of hydrants or sprinkler heads in service. Fire hydrants or fire protection, is usually charged to the city’s general fund. One very important thing to remember is that utilities should derive 90 to 95 percent of their revenues through user charges.
I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if I can be of further service.
Fire Management Consultant
UT-Municipal Technical Advisory Service
600 Henley Street, Suite 120
Knoxville, TN 37996-4105