Village of Odessa, NY Water System Signature Project

odessa new york water distribution upgrade

Gerry Messmer wasn’t finished being a servant to his fellow citizens when he retired after 31 years in the United States Army. But when he stepped up to be the mayor of the town he retired in, Odessa NY, he definitely had his work cut out for him. The town had no sewer system to speak of, “and we put that in on main street to allow the businesses to expand.” A larger problem was Odessa’s antiquated water supply system. “Our water in people’s homes comes out brown, its 1938 unlined cast iron piping. The restaurants in the village have trouble serving fresh water, they have to bring in bottled water. People are having clothing destroyed in the washing machine, they have a lot of iron buildup in their toilets and sinks and its destroying hot water heaters.”

Mayor Messmer chose Travis Long and his team at JHA Companies as his partner in bringing Odessa’s water infrastructure into the 21st Century. “Water is our most precious resource,” says Travis, “and if we don’t have a clean sustainable supply of water, a community withers. They cease to be able to advance and grow, attract, sustain the youth a and offer those opportunities.” Travis and his team found that “there were distribution issues as far as some flows and pressures–but ultimately we needed to provide a quality water source that customers wanted to drink, that felt safe to drink.”

Previous Odessa Water Storage

In order to address the aging water system, JHA worked with mayor Messmer to devise a two phase redevelopment plan. As Gerry explains, “The first part is the water distribution system where we are replacing about 18 thousand feet of old antiquated water lines. The second phase that we’ll get into, we have about a thirty-year-old water treatment plant that is not meeting today’s department of health requirements.” Construction began in Spring 2024 to replace the water lines, and it is anticipated that construction will begin on the new water treatment plant in spring 2025.

JHA engineers provided extensive design work for phase one, now under construction, and because Travis and his team joined the project at the earliest stages, they were able to provide services that went far beyond technical design issues.  “These projects offer a unique opportunity because we get to work from the ground up,” explains Travis. “Today’s projects are incredibly costly. We have to be knowledgeable on all aspects of a project, and that includes funding, and helping the secure that funding. And working on this project with the village of Odessa and its partners, we came alongside various organizations such as ARCAP and other funding institutions that were out there that really were the spearheads in securing significant grants to make this affordable for the community.”

Although the two-phase, multiyear project is complicated and somewhat daunting, Mayor Messmer says that the process has done without a hitch. “Really when it comes down to an obstacle, honestly there wasn’t one. And I have to attribute that strictly to JHA. Because they knew the process and how to get us from the planning grant to construction phase making sure they hit all of the benchmarks required for funding along the way, so it was a very smooth project.”

Travis Long, Corey Rilk, Gerry Messmer

In dealing with complex projects, Travis feels strongly that communication is the key for the success of both the engineering team and the client. A big part of the success in this case was that Mayor Messmer and his team were highly engaged in the project, and their enthusiasm and professionalism helped enormously to encourage the JHA team.  “Communication was paramount,” Travis explains. “It was essential that the client was updated, kept in the know on what major milestones were forthcoming, on what his responsibilities and needs were to support the project, to support JHA.” He adds that he and his team always take great care to educate clients about the numerous funding and regulatory agencies involved, as well as the type and frequency of communication required by various stakeholders.

Gerry and Travis agree that the human factor is the critical piece in projects of this nature and scope. “A construction project is not just about putting pipe in the ground”, Gerry explains. “One of the things that I think is incredibly important with JHA is that I have a personal relationship with the owner of the corporation [JHA founder/owner Joe Hunt], you can reach out and talk to him, you can reach out and talk to the vice president [Travis Long, Director of Environmental Services]. Everybody in JHA is down to earth, works well with you one on one, nothing gets passed off to somebody, they take ownership of every issue. It’s not about the money, it’s not about the profit. It’s about making sure people have clean drinking water. Doing things in the right order so there are no glitches and hangups And JHA are experts at that.”

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