July 16, 2008

Water Meter Costs Called Recoverable

By Kathy Kellogg

Within five years, the City of Olean could recover the estimated $2.3 million cost for new meter installation for all of its 6,500 water customers, Public Works Director Tom Windus told members of the Common Council's City Operations Committee on Tuesday night.

Windus described the proposed meter upgrade as aldermen considered a proposed change in the city's water and sewer code. If the Council votes to revise the code after a public hearing next month, the city will be able to take ownership of the meters and replace them with units equipped with radio transmitters.

The new meters will come at no cost the city's 6,500 homeowners and industrial water users, with the city's consultant, Wendel Duchscherer, prepared to hire an army of local plumbers to replace about 1,000 meters each month. Data on water usage will be sent to a computer server in City Hall four times a day and homeowners will receive a monthly bill calculated in gallons instead of cubic feet.

"It will be easier on the budget" for homeowners, said Windus.

He added that the changeover will increase revenues by gathering data from 25 percent of the water customers whose meters are inaccessible to Public Works Department meter readers each quarter.

Windus said those extra revenues are guaranteed by the consultant to pay for the project within five years. The project cost, which translates to about $250 per tap, would be financed in a "simple payback" lease arrangement with the consultant that is authorized by the State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Other portions of the code proposed for revision deal with property owner responsibility for backflow prevention devices and related requirements, along with a section that will allow the city to raise rates without changing and republishing those rate changes in the water and sewer code.

Committee members said they hoped to add a provision requiring a public hearing prior to rate changes, then voted to send the resolution to the Common Council for further discussion. A vote could be taken next month on the code revision resolution.

After the meeting Windus said he hopes to act quickly to obtain two engineering studies that the state Department of Environmental Conservation recently said are needed before a permit is issued for the $2.5 million East Olean Sewer Project.

The city has been poised to begin work on a new pump station to alleviate backups, clogs, outdated pipes and leaks in East Olean, but has delayed work due to funding problems and engineering issues posed by the need to prevent back flooding while drilling through dikes and under a creek.

Originally published by CATTARAUGUS CORRESPONDENT.

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