Riverside residents who repeatedly ignore requests allowing the village to change out their old water meters will be subject to monetary penalties courtesy of an ordinance soon to be approved by the village board.

The village’s Public Works Department is beginning its second year of a three-year program to replace all of the water meters in the village. To date, according to Public Works Director Michael Hullihan, over one-third of the meters in the village have been replaced by work crews. But he’s also encountered some resistance?”albeit passive?”from residents, who won’t respond to messages requesting access to their homes in order to change out the old meters.

“It’s not unexpected,” Hullihan said. “But we need some incentive to encourage people [to contact the Public Works Department].”

The incentive Hullihan is seeking is a $50 fee every time he has to send out a village employee to manually read a water meter. Since meters are read once every two months, that could add up to $300 per year in extra billing for recalcitrant customers.

“Fifty dollars is close to the effort it takes to send someone out to do a manual reading and process it,” Hullihan said.

The meter replacement program began last year as a way for the village to more accurately track water usage and to streamline the meter reading process. Before last summer it took three staffers an entire week each month to manually read water meters in the village.

The new meters come with a transmitter unit, which is fastened to the side of a home or commercial property. The transmitter allows staffers to simply drive by and get meter readings via radio signals.

By the time the program is complete, crews will have replaced some 3,100 water meters within Riverside. The new equipment cost the village approximately $800,000, which it is recouping by charging water customers $235 per meter.

While Hullihan said there’s no reason to believe that some people are ignoring his calls as a protest against the fee, he does want to keep the meter reading program on track. He estimated that 17 percent of customers who were scheduled for meter replacements in 2004 have ignored requests to schedule an appointment.

He suggested that the fees could be levied against customers who either fail to respond to a certain number of appointment requests or after the projected completion date for the program, January 2007.

Trustee Thomas Shields questioned the need for the fee at this time, saying the program is two years from being completed and that the $50 fee seemed “steep.”

“I’m not persuaded it’s really needed yet,” Shields said. “I’d hope the residents of this village realize that this is a positive process. I would hate to think that residents of Riverside would have to be pressured into doing something that’s advantageous to the village and to themselves.”

But trustees John Scully and Candice Grace disagreed, saying that the fee might be too low.

“Why not put it at $100,” Scully said. “To get people’s attention and get it over with, you need to make it onerous.”

Village trustees are expected to impose the fine at their May 16 meeting.