By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s townwide water-meter replacement project has begun, with homeowners about to get involved starting in mid-October, redbankgreen has learned.
The heavily debated program mandates that every address served by the municipal water utility get a new, remotely read meter, a process that began in recent days with the metering of borough hall, firehouses and other public structures that never had any.The new meters include radio transmitters for remote reading, like one in use on this new house on Oakland Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
Public utilities director Cliff Keen told redbankgreen that a letter would be mailed in coming days to all water customers outlining the installation program. Here’s the letter: rb-water-meter-replacement-letter-092816
In a nutshell, the new system enables the borough to get up-to-the minute usage reports without a visit to the the property for billing purposes. It can also alert the town to possible leaks and emergencies that went undetected for months under the existing system, proponents said.
In mid-October, installers working for National Metering Services, based in Kearney, will begin alerting customers via postcard to schedule appointments for installations, which Keen said typically take about 30 minutes.
All installers will wear company-branded clothing and carry identification. Homeowners with any doubts about who they’re dealing with are urged to call borough hall, where employees in the utilities and finance departments will have the worker IDs on file for confirmation, Keen said.
National Metering won the installation contract in March with a $1.59 million bid. A month earlier, the council approved two bonds totaling $3.7 million to pay for the meters and a new municipal well at the Chestnut Street facility. The meters and their installation would be paid for from the $1.9 million meter bond, with “no increase in taxes or water rates” borough Administrator Stanley Sickels said in 2015. An anticipated 10-percent increase in collections would cover the debt service on a 15-year bond, he said.
Homeowners won’t be charged for the meters or their installation, but “any additional work that may need to be completed, such as the installation of a code-required electrical bonding wire around the meter, will be charged to the resident at $35 per installation,” the letter says.
The replacement of some 3,800 residential meters is expected to take 10 months to complete, Keen said.
Town officials have said the new meters are needed because the existing meters are long past their life expectancy, and cannot be repaired or replaced because they’re no longer manufactured. In addition, the current system of hand-entries of meter readings into a billing system is “worse than antique,” Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer said in May, 2015.
Moreover, the state Department of Environmental Protection requires that municipal utilities replace meters when the value of all water delivered exceeds water revenue by 15 percent or more. The borough’s shortfall has been certified at that threshold, officials said. Unbilled water deliveries were costing the town at least $1.5 million a year, and perhaps as much as $2.5 million, Schwabenbauer said.
Public informational meetings on the meter program have been scheduled for the following dates and locations, Keen said:
• Tuesday October 4 at 1 p.m. at the Senior Center, 80 Shrewsbury Avenue
• Friday, October 7 at 10 a.m. in the council chambers, 90 Monmouth Street
• Monday, October 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers.