Water Project Manager Speaks

A consistent, reliable potable water supply is one of the foundational requirements for community growth,” says Jamie Headen, the lead project manager and lead process engineer on the Jacksonville Water Project. Debates about cities’ investments in safe water supplies have long plagued city councils with their complexity, creating ‘tough decisions’ as Headen phrased. Jacksonville cares, though, about providing its citizens with reliable water – and thus, the Jacksonville Water Project commences under the eyes and hands of skilled engineers like Headen. While it may be an eyesore for the moment, ultimately, it will be a means of community nourishment and growth.
Now serving as the vice president of Benton & Associates, Headen was a 1995 graduate of Jacksonville High School (JHS). During his high school years, Headen participated in the Cooperative Vocational Education program at JHS. This opportunity formed the foundation of his work today as he began employment with Benton & Associates. His college career took him to Lincoln Land Community College, where he procured his associates degree, and then to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he received his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.
Headen directed deep gratefulness to the individuals at Benton & Associates who mentored him in the field and helped him rise to the level of engineer and manager that he is today. He shared, “I am very thankful to have had a chance to work for, and with, Bob Benton, John Calise, Paul Hansen and Dick Rawlings here at Benton & Associates, Inc…. each of these gentlemen brought their own brand of integrity to their work along with a pinch of orneriness, which endeared them to clients and friends alike. I am very appreciative of their mentorship over the years and I hope all young people have the good fortune to learn from leaders in their chosen field like I did.”In his field, Headen is staying insanely busy these days. He shared an overview of features of the Jacksonville Water Project, saying, “The new facility combines a blend of proven treatment technologies with new technical innovations at each step in the process. Flexibility and reliability are built into each part of the plant along with provisions to expand and accommodate new treatment techniques, as they are needed.”
Headen continued, “Like the existing treatment plant, the new facility can successfully treat lake water, well water, and any blended combination of the two sources by adjusting chemicals and treatment techniques. As new raw water constituents become more regulated, alternative coagulants, filter media and other adjustments can be made to maintain top water quality. The plant is a zero discharge process water facility where all process water is harvested and recycled through the treatment plant reducing the waste load to waterways.”Some of the goals for the new plant include establishing ease of operation, keeping required manpower at the minimum levels, and creating optimal working and safety conditions for all staff. A crucial goal – and one where Headen and his team will likely exceed expectations – is in regards to water capacity. Headen stated, “Initially, the new facility will produce about 3.0 – 5.0 million gallons per day (MGD) throughout the year.” While this is a massive number, Headen commented that the new plant has incredible capacity for more, saying, “It is constructed for 9.0 MGD at current loading rates leaving allowing for a quick increase in production and growth if needed.”
Luckily for Headen, and the city for that matter, there is an excellent group of individuals committed to this massive project – comprising what is mostly a “home grown team.” Headen listed a few key names, saying, “We are very fortunate … to have this staff to handle treatment process design. Our structural department led by Reg Benton and civil department led by Bill Sleeman provide the design for structures and site access needed for a functional facility. Also part of the team for this project was Chip Craddock and his mechanical/electrical/plumbing group from Clark-Dietz in Champaign (Chip grew up in Jacksonville as part of the Gano Electric family and has contributed to electrical construction on the Jacksonville well field in the past).”
Headen continued, “One of the most important parts of the design team was the input of the city’s operators, led by Jack Cosner. Cosner brings over 30 years of operating experience and heavy construction knowledge to the project and worked very hard to make sure the city’s interests were protected during the design and construction process.”
Looking through Jacksonville’s water supply history in the past, Headen mused, “From the initial pursuit of a water system in the late 1860s to the construction of the wells and 30” transmission main in the early 1950s, city councils of the past and present have made tough decisions regarding investments in a safe water supply. The decision to build a new water treatment plant is never easy. But after considering the age, location, safety/code issues and regulation changes over the years, it was time to move into the next phase of the city’s water system history.” Looking into the future, Headen concluded, “Those decisions [for investment in water supply] have allowed [Jacksonville] to grow, support institutions and attract industry which may not have been otherwise possible.”
A lifelong dweller in Morgan County, Headen lives with his wife, Katie, a teacher at South Jacksonville Elementary, and his two sons, Tyler and Ryan. In his free time, Headen hangs out with his boys – hunting, fishing and playing ball. He loves traveling with his wife, doing CrossFit and picking on his banjo. His family’s love for the latter is debatable.

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