East Lyme residents to vote Wednesday on water meter replacement

East Lyme — With what First Selectman Mark Nickerson describes as a need to address an aging water-metering system, residents will vote on a proposal to bond $2.3 million to update the town’s residential system at a special town meeting Wednesday.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The proposal, which was passed by the Board of Selectmen May 1 and then by the Board of Finance last week, outlines the replacement of more than 6,000 residential water meters with “high-tech” radio frequency meters.

According to Nickerson, who also chairs the Water and Sewer Commission, the new metering technology, if approved, will send water-meter readings to a central office where it can be analyzed and recorded for accurate billing purposes, bypassing the need for utility employees to manually read and record the meters. 

The new system will also allow utility payers the ability to monitor their own water usage in real time through a cellphone app or online. It will also let homeowners, as well as the town’s utility department, to detect and address water leaks in a timely fashion.

Additional improvements with an upgraded system will be the ability to bill utility users quarterly, rather than twice annually and allow for better customer service with better accounting of usage, Nickerson said.

"It will save us a lot of time, an incredible amount of time," Nickerson said Monday.

Should the proposal pass, the new metering system is expected be installed and completed by April 2020, Utility Engineer Brad Kargl said Monday.

The town has been working out a solution for its water-metering system, which Nickerson described Monday as “being beyond the end of life,” since 2012.

Currently, the town uses a traditional analog metering system in which utility employees must walk up to the 6,000-plus homes that use meters — many of which are more than 20 years old, Kargl said — to record those numbers.

A full meter replacement has never been completed before, Kargl said, and with the new meters, a homeowner will still be able to manually read their own meter if they do not have access to a computer.

According to Water and Sewer Commission, it takes utility employees a total of 12 weeks each year to read the meters twice annually — a costly and time-consuming effort that, if eliminated, would allow for those utility employees to focus their efforts elsewhere within the department, Kargl argued at a recent Board of Finance meeting.

Nickerson added to that idea Monday, saying, “There are really no downsides to this other than we need to go in and actually update our infrastructure system. If we didn’t do it now, we would have to do it eventually anyways.”

Among the expenditures in the $2.3 bonding allocation, is approximately $1.3 million needed to purchase the meters, as well as $191,000 needed for the accompanying software and radio communication system necessary for the meters to work.

Approximately $550,000 of that approved amount will also cover the installation of the meters, which the Water and Sewer Commission approved to have installed by Professional Meters Inc. — an Illinois-based company that specializes in water-meter installations — pending approval with the Connecticut Department of Health.

The contract has not yet been awarded, Kargl said Monday.

The meter systems will be provided by Sensus, “a smart technologies and services” company based in North Carolina that manufactures water meters and which focuses its efforts on water, gas and grid systems. Kargl said that the town has already been using Sensus meters for many years, and that “the new technology will integrate more easily with the current system.”

Speaking at the March 26 Water and Sewer Commission meeting, a representative from Sensus said the meters “are high tech and do not wear out over time.” They will include a 20-year warranty and a 15-year supplemental battery warranty, he said, as well as smart alarms and leak alarms.



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