How One Municipality Uses Reddi Services to Get Things Done
Municipalities have all the needs of privately-owned large operations, but also answer to the taxpayers.
With that responsibility in mind, municipal managers depend on reliable contractors like Reddi Services Industrial & Municipal to keep facilities operating smoothly. The Fairfax Drainage District is one such entity and Steve Dailey sat down with us to discuss just how involved maintenance can be.
What does the Fairfax Drainage District do?
My name is Steve Dailey, and I’m with a company called the Fairfax Drainage District of Wyandotte County, Kansas. We are a quasi-municipality, and we have taxing authority over the businesses that we serve. Our main function is to keep our constituents dry from the levee running alongside of the Missouri River to the interior drainage in the protected area. The protected area consists of some 12 miles of storm sewer lines, ranging in diameter from 15-inch clear up to twin 9-foot by 9-foot concrete boxes.
We encounter build up in our sewers that needs to be cleaned out periodically. Some of the build-up is industrial discharge from the businesses we serve, some of it is from street sand runoff, and some of it is of a sanitary nature. Some of our sewers are combined, or considered combined sewers, sanitary and stormwater. It’s important, if material starts accumulating in our sewers, that we open those sewers up – get them cleaned out so they can drain the area.
We are in an industrial park that’s a flat, low-lying area. Sewers flow by gravity, but since they’re relatively flat sewers with not much gradient to them, they get plugged with debris. The stormwater will want to back up in the sewer and come out through the curb inlets along the streets – and that can create problems along the streets and on private property where the businesses may experience a backup. Fortunately, we’re on top of it all of the time. We don’t let it get that bad.
What is the connection between FDD and Reddi Services?
We do a certain amount of monitoring every year to characterize where the problem areas are. We do that ourselves with just popping manhole lids and probing down to see how much debris there might be, and then I prioritize those segments that need to be cleaned. That’s when we start looking for somebody to help us clean them out. Historically, we’ve used Reddi Services to do a lot of that cleaning for us.
Being governmental, we are obliged to take bids on larger-type projects to make sure the taxpayers are getting their best dollar value, but we have the authority to limit those companies that we take bids from, so it’s not just an open-ended invitation. We select the companies that we want to give us a price, and that’s been working out really well. Reddi Services is successful most of the time depending on the level of backlog that they and their competitors have. On jobs that don’t require bidding because of less dollar values, we have employed Reddi Services to tackle those jobs without the need to go out for competitive bidding because we are satisfied with the work and the promptness of what they do, and how well they manage the projects.
Have you encountered any project issues?
Projects inevitably have some kinds of problems from time to time. So if there’s a change in scope that wasn’t anticipated – then Reddi Services is very good about sitting down with me and tackling that challenge, and helping resolve it. So they’re good about that. I wish they were still in Fairfax! They used to be one of the businesses that we relied on for some of our tax support, but for business reasons, they have moved out of Fairfax. They’re not far away and can be back here to help us in a critical time, but we were spoiled when they were here.
We use Reddi for sewer cleaning, curb drop inlets, and we have used them for septic tank cleaning. We do have one septic tank out along the levee, where our maintenance barn is, where we have restrooms and things. They have been prompt in getting to us to take care of those issues periodically.
How did you learn about Reddi Services Industrial & Municipal services?
How I learned about Reddi Services, I don’t really recall. I’ve been here 27 years – they probably knocked on my door at an opportune time and explained to me what their services were and gave me an opportunity to start inquiring about tackling some of the projects that we have. It’s been a good relationship.
Can you expand on that relationship?
Fortunately for me, relationships are always about people. Company names are important, and are great if the people are serving the company well. Fortunately for Reddi and for us, we’ve always had good communication efforts back and forth and good follow-up, I might add – good follow-up and updates. Some of our projects can go on for, not just a few days, but sometimes a few weeks, even approaching a month, depending on the magnitude of the project. It’s important for me to hear back on the progress of the projects,so I can report to my board of directors and they’ve been real good about keeping me updated so I can keep my elected board updated.
Have you always worked with Danny at Reddi Services?
I didn’t meet Danny until a few years into my relationship with Reddi Services. Danny served in different responsibilities with Reddi, and I think when the need arose to have him involved, he would show up on the scene. But I’ve known him probably for 20 years at least.
Does Reddi come out on a schedule?
They have to be called first. This is as needed. Before Danny, the gentleman that was our contact would inquire, “Does your septic tank need to be cleaned up?” or something like that. And of course… that inquiring was not because they were short of business, it was because he wanted to make sure that we were taken care of. Because when the little light comes on outside the building, the septic tank is full, and you know it’s already past time. He wasn’t hounding me at all; he was trying to stay on top of it, and we appreciated that.
I would say unscheduled inquiries by Danny and others have occurred because – especially if we have some projects in the back of our mind – we like to know their availability because we might be at a point to go ahead and just turn the project loose. We know that if crews are available, Reddi would like to make it, make it a value for us to do it ,and we’re all about that since it’s saving money for the taxpayers too.
Is there anything else about working with Reddi that you’d like to expand on?
Sure, I have one other thing. I think so far I’ve mainly spoken of the management of the projects, but also what is I think a positive experience that we’ve had with Reddi Services is the field crews. I mean, my background before coming here at Fairfax was at a contracting company. We always had sales guys in the office, but the field guys were the ones that really were the face of the company – they really made or lost the money for the company. Just like Lane – that’s who I worked for, Lane Western Company – just like them, Reddi has a good reputation with their field department, from what my experience has been. Of course, every company has turnover, and sometimes it’s necessary to get certain employees trained on a fast track so they’ll be more qualified to do the various types of work that are required. But what I have found is that even with the turnover, it seems like the quality of folks that I’ve dealt with over the years has always been respectful, diligent, informative, and hard-working. That’s been a good relationship too, from top to bottom, I have positive things to say in that regard as well – field and office management.
Have you had an opportunity to have another company come out because they won a bid and they weren’t comparable to Reddi?
There’s one other company that is as qualified, locally at least, as Reddi Services. Sometimes they would decline the invitation to bid because of their backlog or whatever – that’s a good thing for them, and it’s probably a good thing for me, too, because if they would throw a price out, it would be too high. Of course, if Reddi Services has bid at the same time it may be good for me because Reddi Services would be giving me a lower price. But if Reddi Services got caught behind a railroad track or a busy railroad crossing, and the only bid I got was from the higher-priced company and Reddi Services on the other side of the railroad track with their bid, well we always have the opportunity to throw out bids if we wanted to. But really just two companies [are qualified].
Have you had to navigate issues with other companies indirectly?
We know of a company that has done some work for a fiberglass plant here in Fairfax. They discharge industrial waste, let’s just call it that, into our sewer. We used to clean that material, pay for it to be done, and that meant the other taxpayers paid for it as well. After the second time of cleaning, we said, “Well, this is just not right for the taxpayers at large to clean up somebody else’s mess or discharge.” We told the fiberglass company we were no longer going to do that, but we were going to rely on them to clean it. We recommended Reddi Services to them because they had cleaned this particular sewer for us in the past and done a good job. They are strictly a low-dollar-bid type company, and they chose to hire somebody else – and they never did get it cleaned out. I was involved with that and when witnessing the video footage in the post cleaning condition, we didn’t accept it.
Some companies have big ideas about coming in and getting some work – and that’s okay for them – but they need to be qualified to do the work. If not the owner – in this case the fiberglass company, or in some cases me or Fairfax Drainage – we’re having to deal with an incompetent company, which just causes us to be spending time that we’d prefer not to be spending on somebody else’s inability to perform.
Let’s discuss flooding, seemingly unsolvable problems, and frustration. Have you encountered that?
I’m sure I know of an incident, but it was it was before my time. This area was flooded by the Missouri River in 1951. If anybody’s ever witnessed a flood event and what a river can do – one of the things it does is leaves deposits, silts, and sands from the overflow. Typically a river flows at a pretty rapid velocity, but when it comes out of its banks and spreads out, then that velocity slows down, because it’s over a larger area, the material it’s carrying drops. And as the water level drops, that material sometimes is carried into sewers. In 1951, there was a large sewer cleaning project here in Fairfax. That was actually performed with another company I was talking to you about. They spent probably months and months cleaning out the sewers. That was a catastrophe. I’ve never seen anything like that.
We did go through a flood event in 1993, but fortunately the levee held. There was quite a mess. Of course, the biggest problem then becomes what happens if you have a rainfall event, a storm event with limited capacity in the sewer lines. What’s it going to do? It’s not going to drain as well, it’s going to pond and flood, and create grief for property owners.
Have you ever had any problems with contractors not getting a difficult job done?
I would say probably, yes. We had a company in my early days here,over 25 years ago, that was low bidder and attempted to clean some of our larger sewers, and they weren’t equipped to do that. Because of that the project drug on longer than it needed to.
Occasionally, we will encounter a problem – by we, I mean Reddi or a competitor – that wasn’t anticipated, like a failed sewer for instance. That’s not their fault; it’s just an anomaly that wasn’t expected at the time the bid was issued.
We have some lined, old CMP – corrugated metal pipe, rubber-lined sewers, to protect the steel from being exposed to water. But a lot of these sewers were put in back in the 1940s and 50s. The life of corrugated metal pipe is typically not 70 years – it’s more like half that, so we do have some issues with liner material tearing away from the sewer lines. In fact, Reddi is working on a job right now, in particular a 44-inch by 72-inch arched pipe that has some of this going on. They did one before for us about three years ago, and that’s why we invited them to come back and do this one. They know how to do it, plus they’ve got some new cleaning tools to do it with.
Danny may have told you that we’ve got a new process going on that seems to be successful. They’re fighting water right now, since we’ve had a lot of rain, and so we’ve got a lot of drainage coming through the systems. We’ve called timeout on that job until the water level goes down, and once it does I think they’ll continue to get it cleaned out.
What we are going to be doing once they get it cleaned out – this 44 by 72 – we’re going to entertain a price from a company that does relining of sewers. We already have a contract with them upstream on another section of 44 by 72. What we wanted to do is add to their contract this downstream section that Reddi is working on right now, and just have them relined all in one mobilization. When the weather starts behaving itself we hope to get that knocked out.
Have you had sticky situations that weren’t about a contractor?
Sometimes you encounter material – well, sometimes bad people do bad things, and they’ll discharge something into the sewer that shouldn’t be there, like concrete – we’ve had some of that – or a hard byproduct or some process that we don’t even know what it is. We used to have a fiberglass company, and downstream from them was a resin company. It was kind of like a peanut butter cup, you know, with the chocolate and the peanut butter coming together, making something good, only this wasn’t good. This was a nightmare. And of course the fiberglass company was pointing to the resin company, and the resin company was pointing to the fiberglass company. Sometimes you encounter unique situations, and those are the phone calls you don’t want to hear.
Does Reddi tackle other projects for FDD?
One thing Reddi does do for us, and I’ve talked about mostly sewer line and storm sewer lines, but along the levee we have what’s called an under seepage system. And in that under seepage system – it’s used to keep the levee stable, but I won’t go into the engineering reasons why – we have to have a series of pressure relief wells, along the toe of the levee on the interior side, the protected side. But when the groundwater comes up high enough, water will raise up in these wells and then flow underground to an adjacent pumping station. Those lines may be 24-inch up to 48-inch or so. Occasionally, those lines can get some sand material from the flow of water through the wells. When that happens, those lines need to be cleaned out for the same reasons that the interior storm sewers need to be cleaned out. Danny and I have already communicated about a need to go tackle one of those lines. They’ve cleaned out many of those lines already, but we found another one that has some tougher material to get out.
How long do those stay cleaned out?
It’s a function of the river. So if the river is low from year to year, there’s nothing flowing into those header lines. But if the river is up and there’s a lot of flow, you can get some migration of silts and sands through the wells and into the header lines and the pump stations. It could get packed and caked and all that. So in addition to cleaning out those lines along the levee pump stations, the wet well may have to be cleaned out, too, because it accumulates what’s flowing into it as well.
Thank you, Steve, for taking the time to talk about how Fairfax District Drainage works and how Reddi Services Industrial & Municipal helps keep the area running smoothly.