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Paden City Ponders Need for Water Meters

By Staff | Mar 2, 2016

PADEN CITY – Public Works Superintendent Josh Billiter believes residents need water meters.

Most of city’s water customers do not have meters that measure how much water they use, but instead pay a flat rate of about $35 a month for water service.

“Meters would make it more efficient and control theft of utilities a lot better and the wastefulness,” he said. “It would drive down ultimately the energy costs to produce the water and chemical costs associated with our water plant. It would be a win-win for the city.”

Some residents are not in favor of water meters.

“We don’t want water meters,” Sharon Knowlton said. “I don’t think we’re wasteful with water, but I don’t think we need them either.”

Richard Mead does not think water meters are a good idea either.

“I’m not in favor of that,” he said. “I think we have increased our rates to keep these out, but I don’t what happened to that. I think putting in these meters will cost a lot of money. People who own the houses will be required to put them in, so someone is going to have to pay for them. I’m sure the city can’t afford that. I think a lot of people in town feel the same way I do.”

Though Billiter has discussed water meters at recent City Council meetings, there has not made any decision as to whether to pursue water meters.

“We’re looking into it,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”

Billiter said not everyone will support proposals seeking water meters.

“There will be plenty of opposition,” he said. “We got a lot of retirees in town. Any time you change the bill, it affects their lifestyle.”

Knowlton and her husband Dan have lived in Paden City for several decades.

“There are only two of us in our house, so I don’t know if our bill would go up or it would go down,” she said. “Still, I don’t want to have water meter.”

The state’s Public Service Commission has a direct hand in determining how much water costs.

“Our rates would have to meet a certain standard across the state,” Billiter said.

Meters bill off a flat rate, Billiter said, but if a water customer exceeds that predetermined amount as with anything the cost would cost increase. But most people wouldn’t see their bills increase, he said.

“I think people’s biggest fear is that there will be a massive rate increase that their bill will go up extremely high,” Billiter said. “That’s not the case. Any rate increase would be negligible on your monthly bill. You won’t see as much.”

Some businesses have water meters because they choose to opt in or out based on financial considerations arising from whether they would pay more for water with a meter or be billed more for a predetermined flat rate, Billiter said. Apartment buildings are billed under similar circumstances, he said.

Billiter said water meters make good sense for the city.

“The biggest problem with not having water meters is keeping track of your lost water,” he said. “The price of chemicals keeps going up, so we’re actually losing money on water service right now.”

The city runs into problems when people fill up their swimming pools, but may not necessarily pay an increased water bill because the customer is on the “honor system” as to whether to pay or not, Billiter said. The price to provide water in a standard size pool is $10 per foot, so the average overall cost to fill a pool is probably around $50, he said.

“In my travels through town, I watch a lot of people who instead of paying the chemicals to treat their pools and keep it going that it is easier for them to fill it up when it stuff starts to turn a little shady. They just drain it out and refill it,” he said.

Though there are water line leaks, Billiter said, the city doesn’t have a water loss rate anywhere close to what Sistersville experiences. Sistersville pumps out about 3 million gallons of water per month, but it bills for only about 1.6 million gallons.

“I’ve heard people in nearby towns are very upset with their water bills because of the water meters,” Sharon Knowlton said. “A lot people tell me about these great big bills when the city gets something wrong.”

Billiter said water meters are important to controlling the city’s water loss rate from non-conservation, not necessarily from loss due to aging infrastructure.

“We lose water from leaks here and there, but they are usually pretty well controlled,” he said. “They are not that significant. It is very negligible to what they are losing in Sistersville. Our main water loss is from people washing their cars and who don’t shut their hose off. Their hose just runs constantly. Or it rains for four days, but their sprinkler is running all four days in their yard. I see that a lot.”

Billiter seeks a system similar to what is being considered in Sistersville radio-read meters. He said automated meters would not only be more efficient, but offer more accurate billing. Billiter estimated new meters would cost more than $1 million money that would come from state grants.

“We’d have to go find funding for this project, but the state would be quite happy to see us move to meters since the city has fought them over 35 years now,” he said.