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A City Rises to the Challenge

You can read the nuts and bolts of what happened to the City of Anna last week in Ken Gaidziunas’ excellent chronicling of events on Page 1A. Here, I want to take a look behind the scenes at a four-day headache for Anna leaders, staff and volunteers.

The city’s water main breakage on Wednesday afternoon was compounded by two additional events which put the city into a four-day tailspin of sorts. Well, it might have put lesser city staff’s into a tailspin but Anna was up to the challenge. The water main break, then the subsequent re-repair of said water main and then a completely separate incident involving an Atmos contractor and yet another water line meant that many residents were entirely without water for a time while all residents were without drinking water from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday morning.

The city had several big problems on its hands then — finding and fixing the break, re-supplying and re-charging the lines, getting clean and tested drinking water back into residents’ taps and organizing backup water for fire department vehicles should an emergency occur.

First, the break. City crews located the break at FM 455 and Hwy. 5 and immediately set to work on repairing it. That work — not to mention the additional repair when water began seeping in the same spot — required public works crews to work well into the night and the next day. Around the clock shifts are no one’s idea of a good time but the work had to be done and done quickly. Once the work was done it would just be a matter of time before the system could be recharged and tested for consumption.

In the meantime, city leaders had to figure out how to get drinking water to residents. Fire Chief Tim Gothard is also the city’s Emergency Management Coordinator so much of the burden was placed on his shoulders.

“Our number one concern was getting some water here,” said Gothard.

Gothard and staff began to organize, and within hours of the original water main break had a fire engine and staff in the parking lot of Brookshire’s handing out free bottled water to any resident who wanted some. Preparations were also made to deliver water to the homes of those who couldn’t leave the house. During this time, Gothard put out an “all-call” to round up as many volunteers as he could to aid in this endeavor and was genuinely pleased with the response.

The biggest part of getting that bottled water into resident’s homes. however, was procuring the water. So as not to deplete Brookshire’s resources, city staff and volunteers hit up Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs in McKinney and Sherman for all the bottled water they could haul back. Oh, and the city spent more than $3,300 on all that water.

Now that the water was in Anna, crews had to man the station at Brookshire’s 24 hours a day to get it to residents. This meant that an already-thin crew was being stretched to the breaking point.

“From an emergency management standpoint, you realize you’re running out of resources,” said Gothard.

Gothard contacted Collin County’s emergency management team and was rewarded with the Medical Reserve Corps, which assists local municipalities in times of emergency. The Corps came in and worked the day shift handing out bottled water while city crews and staff members worked through the night. Anna Police Chief Kenny Jenks and his wife, Gothard and his wife and Chief Administrative Officer Jessica Perkins among others all split time during the night to make sure residents’ needs were met.

Speaking of Perkins, she deserves a shout-out from us here at the Tribune for a very well coordinated media response to the situation. Anna residents got emails, texts and Code Red alerts with constant updates of the city’s progress during the repairs. And a shout-out goes especially to all those who worked in that dank water main hole for hours on end and those who worked throughout the day and night to hand out water. Your effort and diligence have been noted and it is much appreciated.

“It was an eye-opening experience, and you learn from it,” summed up Gothard. “When you have city leaders and staff who genuinely care about the city then you’re in a good spot…and we are.”

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