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Published: Thursday, 7/2/2009

Citizen's low-cost idea to add fire hydrants gets city's notice


A proposal to quickly upgrade the dangerously low-volume fire hydrants in the Westmoreland neighborhood in West Toledo at a fraction of the cost of installing new water mains could result in a citywide fix.

Edward Howard, who makes architectural models and renderings for a living, developed the proposal after hearing about the problem of antiquated 4-inch mains from one of his employees, Janna Lake, who lives in the Westmoreland neighborhood, where fire destroyed a historic home on June 9.

Weak water pressure from the lines was blamed for the loss of the home.

Mr. Howard said he looked at a neighborhood map and realized the potential of installing hydrants on the larger, 6-inch water mains on or near Mount Vernon Avenue.

The plan city officials have discussed involves replacing the entire length of 4-inch line on Mount Vernon with 8-inch line, at a cost of $305,000. That plan is on the city's schedule for water main replacement, but is about three years away.

Tom Kroma, director of public utilities, said Mr. Howard's suggestion is a good idea and one city engineers are looking at as part of a comprehensive solution to the 8.7 miles of 4-inch water mains that supply fire protection in Toledo.

"We appreciate Mr. Howard's suggestion," he said.

"It is a creative solution to try to add some additional flow through some hydrants. If we can do that in a quick term, we're going to, and we're going to look at it as a comprehensive approach," Mr. Kroma said.

He said crews were out yesterday testing the web of underground 6-inch lines in Westmoreland to make sure they had enough flow and could handle the installation of fire hydrants.

Mr. Howard said prompt upgrading of the waterlines could solve a problem nettling the residents of Mount Vernon - the possibility that their insurance companies will try to raise their rates based on fears the hydrants aren't safe.

"This solves that quickly instead of having it fester for three years," said Mr. Howard, owner of HowardDigital.com.

Firefighters responding to the fire in the home of Barbie and Herman Harrison, 1945 Mount Vernon, complained of inadequate water volume in the hydrant in front of the Harrisons' home.

Mount Vernon is served by six hydrants on 4-inch mains. Under Mr. Howard's suggestion, three additional hydrants could be installed on 6-inch mains at a cost of up to $4,000 each. An additional hydrant could be added by running a 600-foot extension from another street.

Mrs. Harrison said the suggestion was passed along during a public meeting Tuesday night at St. Francis de Sales High School attended by about 50 people.

Mr. Howard did not attend. But Janna and her husband, Randy Lake, who live on Mount Vernon, pitched the idea. It drew an enthusiastic response from the victim of the fire.

"We wanted to hear what actions could and would be taken immediately. That seemed like the most active thing," Mrs. Harrison said.

Mrs. Harrison said residents wouldn't want the installation of an 8-inch main to be canceled.

"That's a concern, but in the interim, I think it's better to do something than to do nothing," Mrs. Harrison said. "Our house has burned down. There's nothing they can do about that. The concern is for the safety for the residents. They want something done."

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has appointed a three-member committee to examine the city's handling of the fire.

Mr. Howard, 48, has unsuccessfully run for public office, including as an independent for Congress against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) in 1992.

Mr. Howard said he feels good that his suggestion is getting consideration.

"It'd be nice if economical solutions to many more challenges the city faces could be found," he said.

Contact Tom Troy at:


or 419-724-6058.

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