By JOHN T. WARD
The agenda for Wednesday night’s meeting of the mayor and council includes the introduction of an ordinance to authorize a bond to cover the cost of the new technology.
Proponents, including Councilman Mike DuPont and Administrator Stanley Sickels, contend the existing meters are part of a system that is inefficient and costly to the town. The devices used for the past 25 or so years are also no longer manufactured, they said.
But the council’s lone Republican, Cindy Burnham, says the bond is being fast-tracked for approval by the end of the year in order to head off possible no vote next year, when she’s joined on the dais by councilwoman-elect and fellow Republican Linda Schwabenbauer.
Here’s the agenda: RB Council agenda 120314 The text of the proposed bond ordinance was not available Tuesday.
The introduction of the bonding measure, which Burnham said would require no fewer than four votes for approval, comes just 10 days after DuPont raised the subject of meter replacement at the last council meeting, when he outlined the benefits of newer technology.
The existing system requires a water department employee to touch a reading device to a black disc-shaped interface on the outside of every home and business in order to gather usage data. New systems use wireless reading systems, DuPont said, and could save the borough 10 percent of the $6 million in revenue collected on water usage annually, or $600,000.
With that, “the investment should pay back in five or six years,” DuPont said at the November 24 meeting.
Because the metering technology is more accurate, homeowners also might be alerted sooner to otherwise-unnoticed leaks and drips that drive up bills, said Sickels.
“They might find out about a leaking toilet, or somebody stealing water from a spigot” on the outside of a house, he said. “A leaking toilet – it’s amazing how much water goes through that.”
DuPont and Sickels said the costs and savings figures came from conversations with vendors, who would have to bid for a contract to provide and install the new meters as well as the telemetry and software to run the accounting system.
DuPont told redbankgreen that the water utility had done a study of the metering issue, but Sickels said there was no specific study of the matter, which has instead been discussed in past reviews of the borough-owned water utility in the context of whether it should be sold.
Burnham, however, said “there’s been no documentation, no fact sheet” to support the change.
“Why are they pushing this down our throats?” she asked redbankgreen Tuesday night. “I think this council wants to upgrade the meters to make life easier for the borough, but it’s going to be at the taxpayers’ expense. We’re going to foot the bill.”
Burnham said she presumes Councilman Art Murphy will recuse himself from a vote on the bond because he is a subcontractor to New Jersey American Water Company, which supplies water to the municipality-owned water utility for six months of the year. It wasn’t immediately clear, however, what if any role NJAW would have in the meter deal.
Schwabenbauer, like Burnham, has pressed for a review of water and sewer rates, with a possible eye toward a sale of the municipal water utility.
At the very least, Schwabenbauer and Burnham have said, the borough should eliminate the $44-per-quarter charge imposed on all customers for the presences of meters in their homes and businesses.
Sickels said that was a possibility, but the issue would have to be decided by the council after it was able to review several quarters of cost savings under the replacement system.
The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at borough hall, 90 Monmouth Street.