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Village targets defective water meters

November 29, 2011
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - As many as 400 new water meters installed in the village over the past two years may be defective, village officials said Monday night.

Village Department of Public Works Superintendent Robert Martin said his crews have already identified 85 of the defective Sensus-brand water meters, but there may be between 200 and 400 that are not functioning properly based on problems the village has encountered trying to read the new meters remotely.

Martin said his crews will now be going "street by street, house to house" to make sure every new meter that's been installed is working properly.

It's just the latest issue in a project that's caused headaches for the village since it got under way.

In December 2009, the village board adopted a law that requires meters to be installed for every user of the village water system. That came not long after the village was awarded $1 million in federal economic stimulus funds to install 2,300 new water meters.

The original contractor on the project - Troupe Water Services - put in about 1,200 meters before it left town and was declared in default by the village.

Rochester-based Loewke & Brill Consulting Group took over the contract earlier this year and worked with another company to complete the installations. Loewke & Brill's contract ended in late September, village Manager John Sweeney said Monday.

"In my opinion, all these issues are theirs, the installation issues," Trustee John McEneany said. "I think Loewke Brill pulled out too early."

But Martin said many of the problems have to do with the meters themselves, not how they were installed. In some cases, wires have come unhooked on the radio transmitters that allow village crews to read the meters remotely. Other meters were found to have a faulty rubber gasket where the meter attaches to the homeowner's water line.

Martin said the meters are still under warranty with Sensus. The company has agreed to replace the defective meters and reimburse the village for its labor.

Trustee Jeff Branch said village residents have asked him when they'll start being charged on a metered rate instead of a flat rate, once their meter is installed.

Sweeney and Ellis said it takes, at most, two billing cycles to make that transition as the new meter has to be read at both the beginning and the end of a quarter to get an accurate reading. Ellis noted that under the flat rate, water users had been billed in advance of the quarter. Under the metered rate, people will be billed after their meter reading at the end of the quarter.

Sweeney encouraged anyone confused about the change in billing cycles to contact the village offices.

Ellis noted that some people have been "shocked" that their bill is so high because they're now being billed based on the actual amount of water they're using.



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