Entering the third year of a three-year campaign to change out all water meters in Riverside, village staff want to begin cracking down on people who so far have refused to cooperate with the effort.

In 2004, the village began the process of replacing every water meter in the village with new, remote-read meters as a way to more accurately track water usage and streamline the meter-reading process. While most property owners responded to the village’s requests for access to private property to make the switch, there are some who have simply ignored the village’s requests.

A year ago, Riverside Public Works Director Michael Hullihan proposed imposing a fine on property owners who resisted all efforts to change out their water meters. Although the village board agreed that such a fine was appropriate, trustees never acted on the measure.

On June 5, Hullihan again approached the board at its Committee of the Whole meeting, suggesting that after Jan. 1, 2007 the village impose a $50 meter-reading fee per meter-reading cycle against all those who still have the old manual-read meters installed. Riverside reads meters six times per year, meaning a total meter-reading penalty of $300 per year.

That would more than top the cost of having the meter installed by the village, which is passing the equipment cost along to property owners. The most common meter being installed costs property owners a total of $210, which can be paid in interest-free installments over up to a one-year period.

There are actually two pieces of equipment involved in the change-out, the actual water meter, which is installed inside, and a transmitter unit, which is attached to the side of the building. The transmitter allows a Public Works staffer to drive by and get meter readings via a radio signal.

Installing a meter takes between 35 minutes to an hour, said Kimberly Richardson, assistant to the Public Works director. Residents can make appointments with the department which “will try to accommodate schedules as best as we can,” said Richardson.

When the project is complete, the village will have installed approximately 3,100 new meters. The village purchased the equipment prior to the installation campaign at a cost of roughly $800,000.

“We’ve installed over two-thirds of the new meters and have started using the drive-by [meter-reading] equipment,” Hullihan said. “It’s yielding a significant savings in manpower.”

According to Richardson, while the village has successfully installed over two-thirds of the meters, most of the one-third remaining?”some 800 in all?”represent recalcitrant property owners.

“The majority of those have been very difficult,” Richardson said. “These are residents we’ve been calling for the past two years.”

In addition to phone calls, the Public Works Department has sent letters to the property owners, Richardson said, and has developed a pamphlet explaining the change-out process.

Trustee Thomas Shields suggested that the Public Works Department send out at least three written notices to residents and track the response (or lack thereof) before imposing any fine.

Meanwhile, Trustee John Scully, as he did a year ago, suggested that a $50 didn’t go far enough.

“I’d like to see it raised to $100,” Scully said. “It bothers me that some people want to live here, but don’t want to participate. I can’t believe people don’t want to do this.”