North Riverside is poised to begin implementing its long-awaited water meter replacement program, but it looks like it may be done in phases instead of all at once.

While there’s some question as to what the entire village board will decide on, the board’s finance committee agreed that they’d like to see the village start the program by replacing all commercial water meters – for businesses and residential properties of more than two units.

The finance committee, consisting of trustees Tom Corgiat, Randall Czajka and Hugh Hermanek, also agreed they would like that phase of the project funded by a fee added to the bills of commercial water customers.

Last month, trustees learned that installing a new radio-read water meter system throughout the village would cost close to $1 million. Members of the finance committee are seeking to phase in the program in order to avoid immediately socking residential customers with the larger water bills expected to follow in the wake of the new meters.

“I would move that we implement installing commercial meters totally at their expense,” said Hermanek. “We’re going to make money on the commercial. Not only is this going to cost a million dollars, but bills are going to be astronomical. Before we know how much the actual bills are going to be, I would say let’s go through with the commercial first until we know for sure what we’re in for.”

Czajka said he felt the meter replacement program would be an easier sell to residents if the village went ahead with commercial meters first, explaining that the village would have to raise residents’ bills proportionally.

But Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, who was present at the finance committee meeting, said he favored rolling out the entire plan at once, because doing so would immediate bring in higher water revenues to the village.

“The only thing that concerns me is … there’s a lot of money to be made, and we have to look at that also,” Demopoulos said.

North Riverside Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti told trustees that she would prepare two sets of cost estimates for them to consider in October, one for the entire system and one for commercial properties only.

– Bob Uphues