Forum to discuss water meter replacement scheduled for March 22

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

GREENFIELD — Residents are asked to attend a March 22 forum to discuss a potential $1.5 to $1.7 million water meter replacement project in the city.

Residents are invited to the water meter forum, being held by the Department of Public Works on March 22, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Greenfield High School. The forum will be centered around a proposal to get a new water meter installation project into the capital plan, which DPW Director Don Ouellette said could cost an estimated $1.5 to $1.7 million.

According to Ouellette, the proposal comes as the city has at least 70 percent of its roughly 5,800 meters past their designed life expectancies of 15 years.

“Water meters are designed to last 12 to 15 years. They wear out and have to be replaced,” he said.

Ouellette said that the proposal would be to replace the 70 percent of meters past the 15-year point with a fixed network water meter system, which would use built-in transmitters to send water usage information via radio signal to a central location for collection.

The remaining 30 percent of meters would then be outfitted with an external transmitter that will connect them to the system.

“You have to change the meters anyway, you may as well do it the right way now and get to the 21st century,” Ouellette said.

Ouellette also noted that out of about every 10 meters installed, one will be installed that will be able to record changes in pressure in the water system. This could aid the DPW in finding leaks in the system.

The system can also monitor daily water use in a location, which could alert users of a spike and potential leak inside of a home.

The project would require antennae to be installed on Poet’s Seat Tower and an as-yet-specified location in the western part of Greenfield to collect the transmitted radio signals.

According to Ouellette, the estimated cost of at least $1.5 million could be made up over time, as the new system could provide some cost-saving measures.

Ouellette said that one way that money would be saved is through the reduction in the need for personnel reading and repairing meters. This could save a total of $80,000 to $100,000 in salary and benefits a year, he said.

In addition, Ouellette said that the meters could limit the theft of water, if it were occurring in the city.

“About 5 to 10 percent of water is stolen across the country per year,” Ouellette said. “This will pretty much eliminate that.”

Ouellette, however, did not have numbers of water theft specific to Greenfield or the state.

He also noted that the new meters could improve the accuracy of water meter readings, which he said could increase the city’s revenue on water by 5 percent or more. Currently, Ouellette said the city collects $4 million a year in water and sewer revenue.

Regarding how this improved accuracy could impact customers, Ouellette claimed that it would not affect those “who don’t use a lot of water” as their meters are already relatively accurate, though homes and locations with higher amounts of water consumption could see an increase in their bills.

If the project is accepted, Ouellette predicts it would take about two years to complete, with work beginning as soon as July of this year.