Rotterdam

Rotterdam officials: DEC wants water use metered

Rotterdam Supervisor Mollie Collins holds a water meter inside Town Hall on Thursday
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Rotterdam Supervisor Mollie Collins holds a water meter inside Town Hall on Thursday

ROTTERDAM – The town of Rotterdam supervisor and deputy supervisor are determining whether it will approve its proposed timeline to install water meters in town residences. The timeline, which was provided to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, was developed as part of a larger project plan by the town’s prior administration.

The two officials are also reviewing other parts of the plan, including how the water usage measuring system will work and how much it could cost. Town officials have until the end of this month to notify the state about whether they approve the plan schedule, said Deputy Supervisor Jack Dodson. 

The town will most likely request an extension from the state to rework its original plan so that it can address logistical issues surrounding the installation of water meters. 

But the point is, said Dodson, the town has to meter homes whether its residents approve or not.

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The recent attention to the plan to meter or measure water use surfaced after the town learned in January that a permit approved by the DEC to allow the town to pump more water included a stipulation that its water usage must be metered. In 2019, the town drafted a Potable Water Metering Plan that suggested the town would install the meters within 20 years, Dodson said. The DEC supplied comments back and then in March 2020, Prime Engineering, on behalf of the town, submitted a final plan that called for the town to install meters within the next six to nine years. The DEC is now seeking the town to approve the schedule to have the system implemented within nine years.

However, the public was never included in the discussion over the last few years, said Supervisor Mollie Collins.

Collins addressed the issue during Wednesday night’s board meeting, placing a one-inch meter on the dais before speaking to those in attendance. 

“It is our understanding that the previous majority took this action without any public input,” Collins said. “We find this very troubling. When a policy impacts our entire community, the residents must have the opportunity to have their voices heard.” 

Neither board member Samantha Miller-Herrera nor Evan Christou addressed the statement made by Collins at the meeting. 

However, in an email Thursday, Miller-Herrera said she was unaware of any request by the town to the DEC to begin metering. 

“If there have been any such discussions, it seems that the supervisor and deputy supervisor should notify the other board members so we can be involved in those talks,” wrote Miller-Herrera. “If there has been a request by the new administration, I would like to know why they are requesting DEC involvement now, at a time when families and residents are already under such financial strain. Metering is a costly endeavor that our town just can’t afford right now. I believe it cost Glenville $1.8 million dollars to upgrade existing meters in 2017.”

Miller-Herrera said she has not been notified nor invited to any meetings regarding the Public Works Department. 

Collins is against metering.  

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“I want no part in metering,” Collins said, noting she grew up learning to conserve water because she had a septic tank. 

However, she said if the DEC requires the town use meters to measure its water usage, then the town really has no choice. 

Dodson has been a staunch proponent of installing meters in town. 

As an engineer, he has seen how meters have helped communities reduce their water usage by 30% to 40%, which cuts down on waste, he said. He also said the meter system would provide a more equitable distribution of the cost of using water.

Regardless of where they stand on the contentious issue, both Collins and Dodson said the town should have educated the public on what it was doing. 

“I don’t care if it’s a contentious issue or not,” Dodson said. “Why would you continue to do all these dealings with the DEC in secrecy and never once bring it to the attention of the public?” 

The submitted plan does not lay out how key parts of the program would work, including what rates people would pay, Dodson said. While the current plan anticipates the scope of work would cost around $8 million for 12,000 homes, it does not include a leak protection program. Dodson anticipates the cost to meter will actually be much higher because of supply chain issues. The plan also doesn’t address who will be in charge of reading meters, or how billing would work, Dodson said. 

The meter that Collins had on display cost $365 per unit, she said. That means for 12,000 homes, the town could be looking at a price tag of over $4 million for the purchase of the meters alone. 

The plan and other information regarding the switch is now available on the town’s website.

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]

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