By Clay Schuldt
Special to The Caledonia Argus
The Caledonia City Council discussed at their Aug. 13 board meeting the best way to alert residents about the installation of new water meters.
Near the end of September the City of Caledonia will be outfitted with brand new water meters. The new meters will be automated using radio signals to transmit consumption numbers to the meter readers as they move about the community.
The new technology will allow for more efficient reading and allow the city to identify leaks sooner. In addition, the city will be able to read all meters monthly instead of quarterly, meaning bills in the future will be for current usage.
However, with the new meters comes billing complication.
Currently the City of Caledonia reads water and sewer once every three months and divides the bill into three installments. Residents use three months of water and sewer, then pay off the bill over the next three months.
The change to new meters will allow monthly readings but as a result of the transfer, Caledonia residents will have a significantly higher bill on Nov. 1, 2012.
The bills submitted on Nov. 1 will include all three months of water and sewer charges.
This is necessary to finalize the old meters and begin a new billing cycle. Customers with automatic withdrawal will see the bills come out on Nov. 10, as usual. This is a one-time higher than normal billing.
Interim City Administrator Paul Sparks explained that the city will send two letters to residents explaining the reason for the higher bill.
“There is no real good way to soften the blow,” Sparks said. The council considered giving residents extra time to pay the bill, but since other utilities are combined with the water and sewer bill, extra time would affect the billing of the other departments.
Sparks said he felt hardship claims could be handled on a case-by-case basis rather than establish a system.
By Dec. 1 all water and sewer bills will be changed over to the monthly schedule. In addition, water usage will be measured in gallons rather than cubic feet (1 cubic foot equals 7.48 gallons).
The city will begin installing the new water meters at the end of September. Residents are asked to make sure the water shut off valve below the meter is working prior to the replacement. The average installation time for a meter is 20 minutes.
Michael Rogich requested the right to privately handle the installation of the new water meter on the trailer he owns rather than have city employees perform the task. Water meters in trailers are more difficult to install, and Rogich said he would prefer to go with an independent contractor.
At first Mayor Robert Burns was concerned that this could set a precedent, but Sparks said it would not be a typical request. The city is not directly charging residents for meter installation, while Rogich will pay for the installation.
The council voted accordingly with the condition that Rogich complete his work by Friday, Sept. 28.