On the back burner since June, the issue of replacing all of the water meters in Brookfield bubbled back to the surface last week during the village board’s Committee of the Whole session.

According to Village Engineer Derek Treichel, he and Public Works Director William Brandt have been working on the issue and may be ready to present a recommendation for a meter replacement program some time in

When the village board passed the fiscal year 2005-06 budget in July, trustees included a $500,000 set-aside in the village’s water and sewer fund to begin a water meter replacement program. Such a program has been on the table in Brookfield since at least 2003 in the wake of information that the village is losing thousands of dollars per year because the current mechanical meters are under-reporting water usage in the village.

The village board has consistently resisted implementing a water meter switch, because the estimated $2.5 million overall price tag to install computerized remote-read meters was deemed too steep. The primary benefits of remote-read meters are increased reliability and a decrease in the amount of time it takes to read the meters.

In April 2004, then-Village President Bill Russ called for all of the village’s water meters to be replaced in response to a significant increase in what appeared to be water billing errors. At the time, he stated that the village was losing “approximately $400,000 a year in inaccurate meters.”

But the issue didn’t appear again on the radar screen until June 2005, shortly after current Village President Michael Garvey was sworn into office.

Treichel said that he had received information regarding water usage in the village for the years 2002-04 inclusive, but that 2003 and 2004 weren’t accurate reflections of the village’s water usage since those years included a service snafu that resulted in the village refunding $150,000 to Brookfield Zoo for excess water charges.

Recently, Treichel said he’s received water usage data from October 2004 to October 2005 and that he and Brandt are now in a position to present current water usage estimates to the board and are in the process of obtaining a quote for new meter installation from Sensus, a water meter manufacturing firm.

“We’re trying to project the cost savings,” Treichel said. “We’ll have that wrapped up by early to mid January.”

The board may consider the matter at its Jan. 23 meeting, or Treichel and Brandt may brief the board’s Infrastructure Subcommittee before going to the full village board.

Brookfield isn’t alone in mulling a switch from old-style mechanical meters to new remote-read meters. Both Riverside and LaGrange Park have opted to implement a remote-read system in recent years.