When the town of Glenville receives meter readings from its residents and business owners, the numbers don’t always add up.
When a reading is too high, it’s often because a customer read a three or a zero as an eight, Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said.
“We’ll notice the number makes no sense, and we’ll notice it happens to be the serial number of the meter,” he added.
That’s one of many examples of how the town’s current system for billing water customers is outdated, which has led the town to consider an automated system, Koetzle said.
It would cost the town an estimated $1 million to install automatic water meters on the properties of just under 7,000 water customers, Koetzle said. The town has about 7,100 water customers, but homes and businesses built in the last 10 years already have the sensors and would not need new meters, he said.
The project would likely be funded through an energy performance contract, in which the town would pay a company to do the work using the savings it sees from the project, Koetzle said.
“It pays for the contract, essentially,” he said.
Koetzle said he expects the project to pay for itself and result in “significant savings” down the road, by streamlining the process through which the town bills water customers — a process that starts in June and runs into the fall.
Currently, the town mails a form out to its customers, who then must read their meters, input their readings and send the forms back to the town. The town then bills the customers, who then mail in the payments
“That’s about six steps,” Koetzle said. “This water meter automatic read would probably eliminate about four of those steps.”
And that’s assuming customers send in their readings. The deadline to submit readings is today; as of Thursday, about 1,200 water customers had not done so. Those who do not meet the deadline will be billed the average of their last three bills. If three years of bills aren’t available, they will be billed the minimum $40.
Under the new system, a vehicle would drive through town and automatically pick up the readings, which would then be automatically transferred onto bills to be sent out by the town.
The automated system would also ensure that the reads are accurate, Koetzle said. It would even save water — and save customers money — because the meters come with leak detection systems, he said.
“We can pinpoint those leaks in the system and help residents identify them and get them fixed, so it will conserve water and also [reduce] their potentially high bills,” he said.
The new system was recommended to the Town Board last month by the town’s Efficiency in Government Committee, which is co-chaired by residents Mary Lolik and Larry MacArthur. The board could vote to send out a request for proposals for the work at its July 16 meeting. The new meters could be installed in 2015.
“I believe wholly that this is going to really improve the efficiency in our water department, and I support the recommendations of the committee going forward,” Koetzle said. “And I’m hoping the board will embrace the idea.”