The original PVC system had issues, like this section of piping with nine elbows, reducing the efficiency of water flow.
TARPON SPRINGS – City staff gave a showcase presentation on the improvements it has made to the irrigation system at Cycadia Cemetery.
“An irrigation system properly functioning is the foundation of having a healthy turf, attractive grounds, something that we believe we owe to the community to respect those that have passed before us,” Public Service Director Paul Smith said in kicking off the presentation.
As a perpetual care facility, the city-owned burial ground is something that will be taken care of by staff for the foreseeable future and will constantly require updates.
“They were the perfect group to work on this,” Smith said. “They’re the technology guys we have in our department. They really took to this.”
The group Smith referred to is led by Chief Utility Mechanic Francisco Pavez, who managed the irrigation system upgrade.
“We looked at this project together and we had, essentially, a vision,” Pavez said. “Thanks to the help of Paul, we tried to make it a reality.”
The cemetery’s irrigation system has a problematic history, said Pavez.
The original system, which included steel piping, worked well for a time, Pavez said. As metal sits in the ground, he said, corrosion and rusting eventually take hold and can be difficult to repair.
The city then adopted a PVC pipe-based system that should have given better service but didn’t.
“The technology at the time wasn’t very up to par with what we needed, especially a commercial system,” Pavez said.
Staff then tried a system that had multiple switches but lacked a central controller.
“All were poorly implemented without a masterplan,” Pavez said of the various irrigation systems.
It was time to come up with yet another alternative. Staff eventually settled on a simpler system with two-wire controls from Rain Bird and spent about two weeks in South Florida getting training from the company.
When they began the installation process, they found issues that they did not foresee thanks to the system that was already in the ground. They ended up having to hand dig over 5,000 feet of trenches, install 4,000 feet of wire and replace 500 to 600 feet of pipe.
They couldn’t use powered digging equipment because it might have damaged the infrastructure in the ground or graves, Pavez said.
In addition, the pipes in the ground had an unusual layout with a lot of 90-degree bends that reduced the rate of water flow through the system from 10 gallons per minute to just 1 gallon, he said.
Now that the makeover is done, staff can control the irrigation system using their smartphones.
Because the project was done in-house, the city saved more than $100,000 in savings, Pavez estimates. Because of the many problems found underground, a private contractor would have hit the city with a lot of costly change orders, he said.
The new smart irrigation system can self-diagnose leaks and other problems, isolate areas with problems until they are repaired and check weather forecasts and cancel planned irrigation periods when it is going to rain.
Mayor Chris Alahouzos said Pavez and his team should be recognized and honored for their hard work in some way.
“We have some of the most forward thinking staff,” said Commissioner David Banther. “I appreciate your work.”