Can't Find That Water Meter? If You're in Cloverdale, There's One Veteran Operator You Can Ask.

Award-winner Richard Saucerman knows his community’s water system inside out. He calls his experience his special skill.

Can't Find That Water Meter? If You're in Cloverdale, There's One Veteran Operator You Can Ask.

Saucerman and his team operate and maintain the water treatment plant, the water distribution system, and the wastewater collection system.

The answer to almost any question about the water department in Cloverdale, Indiana, is just a phone call away. Richard Saucerman, water treatment manager and a 25-year department veteran, knows the town water system inside and out.

“You can call him up anytime, day or night, and say, ‘Richard, I’m over here at this address and I can’t find the meter,’” says Wayne Galloway, former town manager. “He’ll say, ‘It’s behind the bush over there by the driveway.’ He knows where it is.”

Saucerman was named 2019 Water Systems Operations Specialist of the Year by the Alliance of Indiana Rural Water. Cheryl Galloway, the former utility clerk, nominated him. “Richard knows every waterline and 90% of the wastewater lines and the history that only an old-timer would know,” the nomination states. “His knowledge has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion. He is a treasure to this town and the associates he works with.”

Saucerman didn’t know he had been nominated until just before he was announced as the winner. He was actually planning to skip the alliance’s annual meeting because his mother was ill, but his colleagues told him to at least attend the awards luncheon.

He was proud to accept the award. His special skill, he says, is simply having a lot of experience: “I’ve read all the water meters through the years. The guys will call me once in a while when they can’t find a meter, and I can usually tell them where it is. They put them in weird places sometimes. Not all of them are out by the sidewalk.”

DROP IN CONSUMPTION

Cloverdale is a town of about 2,200 in southwestern Indiana, about halfway between Indianapolis and Terre Haute. It’s in a farming area, but it also has quite a bit of tourism because it is close to the Cataract Falls State Recreation Area.

The water treatment plant, built in 2000, draws from four wells. Its design capacity is 1 mgd, but it typically produces about 220,000 gpd. The plant uses sodium hydroxide for softening and chlorine for disinfection.

The system has one 900,000-gallon water tower. Most customers are residential but there are five hotels just off Interstate 70, and they along with the schools are the biggest customers. The plant’s telemetry was recently updated with the installation of a PRIMEX control panel.

When Gov. Eric J. Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order on March 24 for the coronavirus, water use dropped to about 170,000 gpd. Households were using more water than usual, but the hotels and school used little. 

FROM THE FARM

Saucerman grew up on a small farm near Cloverdale, one of Jerry and Violet Saucerman’s 11 children. His father worked at a factory in Indianapolis but also had a 30-acre farm with vegetable gardens and some livestock. “I think, with that many kids, my dad figured he had to have a way to put food on the table,” Saucerman says. “It was a hobby farm, I guess. I think he just had that to keep us busy.”

After high school, Saucerman went to work for a local farmer, but after 10 years, the farmer was scaling down and Saucerman was glad to hear about an opening for a job with Cloverdale. “I would have had to move on eventually,” Saucerman says. “It was fortunate that the town job came up.”

He started as a laborer in 1995 but soon was drawn to the water department. He passed the state water distribution exam in 1996 and earned his water treatment certification in 1997.

Now he is part of a crew of four who operate and maintain the water treatment plant, distribution system and sewers. A contractor operates the wastewater treatment plant.

The crew also takes care of the streets, including snow removal. Town workers do patching on the streets when required, but paving work is contracted. Saucerman likes that his job never has two days the same, although the variations are mainly outside the water treatment plant. There aren’t many surprises where the water is concerned.

“We have very consistent water,” Saucerman says. “We test twice a day for chlorine, hardness, iron, manganese and pH.” The town operates its four wells alternately to make sure all of them are working. Wells 1 and 2 have identical water, and wells 3 and 4 do also. When he switches from well 2 to 3 or well 4 to 1, some adjusting may be needed. Each well usually runs three to four days at a time.

Most of the job’s variety comes from finding leaks or fixing waterline breaks. The Alliance of Indiana Rural Water sometimes helps with leak detection since it has access to equipment that a small system like Cloverdale can’t afford. “Sometimes they find a void in the ground,” Saucerman says. “I’ve had them come with a listening device and they pointed right to the spot.” 

SLEEPING OVER

In 2011, the town’s water tower had to be taken out of service for maintenance. It was emptied, inspected and painted inside and out. Without the storage tower, the water plant had to operate continuously.

Saucerman installed pressure relief valves on fire hydrants at five locations so the pressure wouldn’t get too high at night when water use dropped, but he still worried about the operations. “I stayed here at the plant in a camper out back,” he says. “I wanted to be close if something went wrong.”

The maintenance on the tower was supposed to be done in six weeks, but it lasted 10 weeks. During that period, Saucerman typically went home to have dinner with his wife, Karen, while another worker stayed late at the plant. Then Saucerman would return to spend the rest of the night in his camper.

“I don’t know if anybody else would have done that, and I don’t know that I was required to do it, but I wasn’t at ease when I went home,” he says. “If a pump quit, it meant people were out of water. I felt more comfortable being here. It was just making sure everything was going to do what it was supposed to.”

 STEADY CREW

Saucerman has seen a lot of staff turnover in his 25 years with the town, but his current crew members have been on board for three to five years. The crew members are Brad Fulk, project foreman; Ron “Bucky” Bewley, water plant assistant; and Bradley Dorsett.

“We’ve been pretty steady. A factory job might pay more, but it all depends on if you want to be inside or outside.”

With his farm background, Saucerman definitely leans toward working outside. “I don’t know if I would want to go to an inside job,” he says. “The older I get, the more comfortable I get in the plant, but I still go out and do stuff. I wouldn’t want to be inside all day.”  



Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.