MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Water district customers in the town of Carmel are about to enter the 21st century.
Beginning next month, the town’s vendor, National Metering Services, will begin changing out old water meters for ones equipped with a cellular-based transmitter. That means no more filling out cards and mailing them into Town Hall or letting town officials estimate your water usage and bill you accordingly.
“All of our 13 water districts will be converting 4,000 meters,” said Supervisor Ken Schmitt. “Starting in the middle of July, National Metering Services will contact [the customer] to make an appointment for a crew to come out to their home.”
Schmitt said the meter’s transmitter will be mounted on the outside of the house close to the foundation. A half-inch hole will be drilled for a wire from the transmitter to connect to the meter inside the home. The data will then be transmitted to the comptroller’s office via cellular technology through the cloud.
Town Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell said water bills are currently sent out semi-annually, but with the new software, that will probably be changed to quarterly billing.
At the Town Board’s June 13 meeting, Schmitt had one of the new meters on display.
“I wanted to show you tonight what they will be installing, so you don’t have a fear of what they will be doing,” he said.
Town engineer Rich Franzetti said letters have already been sent out to water customers notifying them of the impending project.
“We have already sent out a letter with the last bill, saying ‘hey, this is coming’ and they will have the opportunity when the next letter comes out to set up an appointment. If we don’t hear back, there will be a second and a third letter,” he said. “There may be those people who may be holdouts or don’t want to have anybody coming in. So, the board may want to consider enacting some type of code change that says if you don’t do [the conversion], we will put a lien on the property or whatever [the board] thinks it should be. It’s something we need to discuss more. Most of the people who are calling in have been very positive and are looking forward to having the new meters. They are more than happy not to have to read them anymore. “
Franzetti said precautions have been taken to assure the homeowners’ safety during the conversion program.
“The letters to homeowners will ask them to make the appointment—they get to set the time and date [for the installation],” he said. “[The installers] will have IDs and wear uniforms and they will go through a background check. And they will have a local plumber with them on some occasions.”
Town officials are putting together an FAQ list about the project that will be on the town’s web page in the coming weeks.
“One of the things we need to be aware of is I’ve been told by people, ‘I have a water meter and I never pay my bill,’ ” said Councilman John Lupinacci. “They don’t realize that when they don’t pay it, they get an estimate that is passed on to the county and it becomes part of their county taxes. So, you do pay it as part of your county taxes. The county makes the town whole for your water meter and you are paying the county plus 10 percent interest. So, yes, you do pay your water bill.”
Lupinacci said the new meters should put an end to that type of thinking.
The new meters are battery-powered and the batteries have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. When the battery gets low, the device will send a signal to Town Hall. And because the device is battery-operated, it will continue to work during power outages.
Franzetti said the new meters will also help in other aspects of water consumption.
“We will be able to see what people are [typically] using, so we will be able to know if there are leaks,” he said. “We will know if a toilet is running. I know it sounds a bit Big Brother, but it’s really just a matter of looking at values and numbers.”
“It will be able to tell you if your neighbor is going up to your spigot and filling their pool,” Lupinacci added.
Councilman Jonathan Schneider said it won’t just help the consumer save water, but the town, as well.
“We will be able to detect leaks not just for the end-user but for the entire distribution center, as well,” he noted. “This will absolutely help us mitigate where those leaks are.”
Franzetti said he believes the new meters will also help with water conservation.
“You will see a decrease in [water] use,” he said. “People will conserve more once they have a realization that it’s there. And if someone tries to tamper with it, an alarm will go off and we will know about it. We will know if anyone disconnects the [power source].”