Schenectady County

Water meter replacement nearly done in Niskayuna

Niskayuna’s water meter upgrade project is winding down, with fewer than 40 properties still equippe

Niskayuna’s water meter upgrade project is winding down, with fewer than 40 properties still equipped with the old meters, officials said Tuesday.

That’s out of more than 7,000 residential and business water meters townwide, Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw said.

Meanwhile, the town is looking to put one of the main features of the new meters to use with the next water bill — the ability to detect and notify residents of leaks.

The town’s Public Works Committee discussed both the remaining meter switch-outs and the leak notifications Tuesday morning.

Regarding the final switch-outs, the number waiting for the upgrade is officially down to 37. Town workers can’t swap the meters without being let inside homes to do so. Multiple letters to those 37 property owners resulted in no response, so Deputy Town Attorney Paul Briggs sent court summonses with the threat of getting a court order to have the meters switched.

“The purpose of the summonses initially was just to get their attention,” Briggs told the committee. “Then, if they ignore that, we go to the next step and personally serve them.”

For some of the 37, the ploy worked, he said. The first day, he got responses from 10, each setting up appointments, he said. Those that respond won’t have to go to court, he said.

The legal saber rattling, McGraw said later, is just to get the new meters in place.

The town has been working on the project since 2009, when it approved spending $1.6 million to buy and install 7,500 meters. The goal was make billing more accurate and to be better able to spot water leaks.

The old system required residents to read the meters themselves and send in cards. The new meters are checked remotely from a passing town vehicle.

The first bills generated by the new meters were sent out in spring 2011. Some were higher than residents expected and some were lower, town officials said.

With the new meters, there is also the possibility for lowering bills by notifying residents of leaks. Those notifications are expected to be put on upcoming water bills.

“These water meters really could save them money and save the town money,” McGraw said.

She said the town can even help homeowners figure out where the leaks are coming from, though the actual repair is the homeowner’s responsibility.

“At the end of the day, we’re saving water and saving resources,” McGraw said.

Also Tuesday, the deputy town highway superintendent told members of the Transportation and Building Committee that about 840 residents have opted out of the town’s yard waste fee for 2013, compared to 971 who opted out in 2012, when about 7,400 bills were sent out. Last year was the first year that the $30 yard waste fee was in effect.

Residents wanting to opt out must do so each year, and must have their notice notarized. It’s a process that some have criticized as onerous.

McGraw said she sees the declining opt-outs as people seeing the value of the pickup.

“What I have found over time is that people say it’s worth the money,” she said.

The fee covers the weekly pickup of yard waste in the town. Fall leaf pickup continues unchanged for everyone, including residents who opt out of the fee.

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