By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank officials have responded to a demand for transparency into a proposed $2.2 million water meter replacement program by posting a list of frequently-asked-questions on the borough website.
At the December 3 meeting of the council, Mayor Pasquale Menna instructed Administrator Stanley Sickels to post “whatever information” he had on the topic by noon Friday after complaints that the borough was rushing the matter through to a vote.
The FAQ, which is copied in full below, was posted at about 12:30 p.m. Friday, said borough Clerk Pam Borghi.
The council is expected to vote on funding for the program next Wednesday. Sickels has previously said the administration’s sense of urgency is owing to the finance committee’s desire to have the meter-replacement project financed, bid out and completed by the end of by the end of budget year 2015. It involves more than 3,800 residential meters.
But the council’s lone Republican, Cindy Burnham, has asked that a comprehensive study of the borough-owned water utility be conducted first. She is to be joined on the council on January 3 by fellow Republican Linda Schwabenbauer, who defeated incumbent Democrat Juanita in the November election. Both Schwabenbauer and Burnham have been critical of water rates and fees, as well as debt issues.
Approval of the bod would require at least four affirmative votes, according to borough Attorney Dan O’Hern.
Here’s the entirety of the FAQ:
WATER METER REPLACEMENT PROJECT
DECEMBER 12, 2014
The Borough of Red Bank is planning to implement a water meter upgrade program in 2015 which will replace the oldmeter reading system with new water meters in every home and business. These water meters are the main component in a proposed state of the art automated meter reading system.
Key benefits of this replacement project are the following:
Upgrade our existing meters to new and efficient meters
- Implement a state of the art automated meter reading system
- Provide accurate meter reading
- Deliver improved Customer Service
- Allow the Borough to offer separate metering for residents using automatic lawn sprinkler systems.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Why must my meter be replaced?
A: The main reason is efficiency. As meters age, moving parts within the meter casing begin to deteriorate and wear out, forcing the need for replacement.
Q: Why not keep using the existing meters?
A: Water utilities typically test or replace their residential size water meters every 10 years. The average age of the current meters is 17 years and the meters in current use are no longer manufactured. Thus replacements are unavailable. Due to the increased accuracy of the proposed new meters all customers will benefit from improved billing with the added bonus of leak and excessive usage warnings.
Q: Will I be charged for this upgrade?
A: No. All meters being upgraded will be done so at no direct charge to the homeowner. All cost associated with this upgrade including installation will be funded through bond ordinance and water utility financing. The repayment of this loan will be made with revenues received through regular usage fees.
Q: What are the advantages of the new meters and readers?
A: First, Accuracy: The accuracy of the new meter is factory tested and guaranteed to operate within American Water Works Association (AWWA) standards for accuracy.
Second, Efficiency: Currently each water meter is read by the meter reader visiting each property, hand recording the reading in a book, which then is entered into the billing system by a finance clerk at Borough hall. The new system will provide for electronic transmission of the data directly to our database/billing system, thus reducing employee labor costs.
Third, leak detection: The new meters being installed read at higher resolution than most existing meters. This higher resolution permits leak detection and other benefits unavailable by conventional and older style analog meters. The new system will provide the ability to detect unusually high or abnormal flows, thus reducing the potential of any overage and excess charges. These are usually indications of leaks in a homeowner’s water system. Oftentimes, toilets and water softeners can run excessively without a homeowner knowing, resulting in a higher quarterly bill than normal. The new meters will give the Borough the ability to detect higher than average flows and assist a homeowner in troubleshooting maintenance issues in a more timely fashion. Presently such excess flows only become apparent when homeowners receive there quarterly bill. Thus such excess flows may have gone undetected for two or three months.
Fourth, Immediate “real” time reads for billing and house closings.
Fifth, Accurate past billing and payment history: Each account will provide hourly reads for 365 days of stored in the system.
Sixth, Increased water conservation.
Also, Due to the accuracy of the system, the Borough will be able to provide separate metering for automated sprinkler systems.
Q: What kind of meters will be installed?
A: For the last three months the Borough has been with representatives of major manufacturers and vendors the various water meters available. Also, members of the Water and Finance departments have visited other towns that have installed similar systems to collect their experience with same. We plan to prepare a performance based specification for public bidding based upon our efforts.
Q: When are the water meters going to be purchased?
A: In following the Local Purchasing Laws of the State of New Jersey, the performance specifications will be prepared and the Borough will go out to bid, most likely in early 2015.