The village of Brookfield intends to issue $2.5 million in general obligation bonds to fund a water meter technology improvement project it will carry out through the rest of the year.

Starting in early April, employees of a third-party company hired by the village last fall to do the work will begin replacing what’s known as the meter transmission unit (MTU), which sends data from residences and businesses to a central system.

The existing MTUs on Brookfield water meters were installed about 15 years ago and are beginning to wear out, according to the village’s public works director, Carl Muell. The new MTUs will employ cellphone technology, which allows both residential and commercial meters to be read by one system. 

Water customers can also download an app to their smartphones to track water usage and quickly spot possible leaks when usage is unusually high.

On March 14, village trustees voted unanimously to approve three separate resolutions to prepare for the bond sale. Brookfield will pay $42,500 to Kane McKenna Associates  for financial advisory services, $25,000 to Chapman and Cutler LLP to serve as bond counsel and $9,000 to Storino, Ramello and Durkin for legal counsel.

On March 28, village trustees are slated to approve an ordinance announcing the intent to issue the bonds, which will start the clock ticking on a 30-day window during which signatures could be gathered on a petition that would force the bond issue to referendum.

If there’s no roadblock, the bond sale will take place in early to mid-May. Brookfield Finance Director Doug Cooper said he expects the village to have the bond proceeds in its possession by the end of May. However, the village won’t wait that long to begin rolling out the MTU replacement program.

The village will use existing water fund reserves to fund the program and then reimburse those expenditures with the bond proceeds.

The new MTUs must be replaced for every existing water meter – about 6,700 in all – inside residential and commercial buildings. Homeowners and commercial property owners will need to allow Midwest Meter employees access to their buildings to replace the units.

Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said the plan was to complete the MTU change-out effort by the end of 2022. Water customers will begin receiving letters in the mail soon informing them what they need to do to allow Midwest Meter access to replace the MTU on their water meters.

“This will be a relatively quick process once we gain access to the home to replace the MTUs,” said Wiberg.

The manager added that it’s customary that the village will have trouble getting permission from some owners, for whatever reason, to enter their properties, but that the village would continue its efforts to get that permission to make the changes in 2023.

“Midwest Meter is accustomed to that and knows how to work with that, so they will be working with those homeowners to make sure we get access to every house and business to replace the meters,” Wiberg said.

The $2.5 million debt will be paid off, most likely over 10 years, through water fees charged by the village. Last July, Brookfield trustees voted to increase water rates by 18.5 percent, from $11.68 to $13.84 per 1,000 gallons of water.

Water rates were increased not only to fund the MTU replacement project but to accelerate the rate at which the village replaced its oldest water mains and to pay for other water infrastructure projects.

Last summer, Cooper indicated that the water rate increase will bring the village an additional $940,000 per year in revenue to pay for water system maintenance.