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The Insurance Services Office will test hydrants in the city to determine their ability to put out fires as part of its evaluation of the Gainesville Fire Department next week.
Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler told council members at this morning’s work session that city officials are doing what they can to minimize the tests’ impact on the city’s water supply.
Public utilities officials will try to capture water that comes out of the hydrants during the tests, Shuler said.
The office is also working with Gainesville Fire Department to cut down on the amount of wasted water, Shuler said.
"They have agreed to really almost cut in half the number of hydrants they would normally want to test because of (the drought)," Shuler said.
The flow tests are necessary to the insurance evaluation to determine the amount of water and the amount of water pressure in the hydrants.
"The only way to do that is to test those hydrants, and open them up and flush out water," Shuler said.
John Canada, Gainesville’s interim fire chief, said the office will look at buildings in Gainesville and determine how much water is necessary to extinguish a
possible fire. Then, they test the hydrants to see if they meet the rating.
"Typically, what we’re probably looking at is a max of 25 hydrants, but we’re hoping to reduce that," Canada said. "But we won’t know that number until they get here and sit down with us and look at what we have."
The number of hydrants that are tested changes with an area’s growth and the sizes of its buildings, Canada said.
The ISO has been sensitive to Gainesville’s drought issue, Canada said.
"They totally understand the severity of the drought in our area," Canada said. "They’re working very well with us to only do what’s necessary for us to receive our grading."
The fire department portion of the insurance evaluation is 40 percent of the grade, Canada said.
"They just basically want to make sure that we’ve got what we say we’ve got, and it will work the way we say it will work," Canada said.
The other portions of the grade are based on the municipal water supply and fire communications.
In other work session business, Mayor Robert "Bob" Hamrick raised the issue of group homes, because the council dealt with two in their previous council meeting and more are scheduled on the planning and appeals board agenda for Dec. 11.
"Is there any way the city can place controls on the group homes?" Hamrick asked.
Shuler responded and the City Council needs to decide what it wants to promote as an ideal location for group homes.
"Do you want them to be larger, more commercial in nature, or do you want them to be smaller, more residential-styled homes?" Shuler said.
"The challenge we’ve got is ... several of our residential neighborhoods have significant numbers of rental properties and that’s what you see these things popping up in," Shuler said.
"That’s what we saw over on Hillcrest and that area," Shuler said.
Shuler said that even one group home, depending on its location, will raise concerns in a neighborhood.
"I don’t have the magic answer, but I’m just saying I think ... from a land-use and policy perspective, if you’re going to have this type of use in your community, (decide) how is it best integrated into the community with the least impact," Shuler said.
Hamrick requested that the city commission a study of group homes in the area so the council can make a better-informed decision.
"I think you’re looking for a level of expertise that we would have to go out city government to find," Shuler said.