Schenectady County

Remote water meters could recoup Scotia’s lost revenue

Village officials are exploring the idea of installing “drive-by” water meters to increase the accur

Village officials are exploring the idea of installing “drive-by” water meters to increase the accuracy of meter readings and collect more revenues.

Mayor Kris Kastberg said the village is considering putting together a bond to include installing meters that allow for remote readings. This would replace the current method, where residents fill out cards and every year, village officials do a check of one-fifth of the properties to see if the reading was accurate.

Public Works Superintendent Andrew Kohout said the current system takes about three months and sometimes it is difficult for workers to schedule a time to get into people’s houses to verify the meter reading.

Under this proposal, the new water meters would transmit data to a central tower, which would keep more detailed records that village officials can access.

“If someone comes in to dispute a water bill, they could pull up a record and it’s a real-time number to show a customer this is what you’re using,” he said.

The advantage of this type of system is it can be upgraded more easily. “It will kind of grow as the technology grows,” he said.

Soon, the technology will let municipalities shut off water service remotely using a computer for customers who haven’t paid their bills.

Kohout said the village wouldn’t be able to do the project itself — even if it were to buy the meters. Some of the water meters are original to houses, according to Kohout. “We just don’t have the manpower to change every meter,” he said.

So it would contract out the work.

Another benefit is if the village goes through with this project, Kohout said it would own the meters on large commercial buildings and therefore have an incentive to make sure they are giving accurate readings. “There’s no reason for any of the commercial customers to make sure the meters are right,” he said.

The Board of Trustees heard recently from Johnson Controls, a company interested in doing the work. Trustee Rory Fluman said that Johnson Controls officials estimated that the village is collecting 42 to 48 percent less water revenue than it should because it is not getting accurate readings.

Kastberg said the next step is for the board to consider a request for proposals to do the meter replacement.

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