By Bob Uphues
If you see a flag flapping in the breeze high above the tree tops in Riverside Lawn across the Des Plaines River from Riverside in the near future, it's not a distress signal. It's a test run for a proposed tower that would be the communications hub for a new fixed-point water meter reading system for the village of Riverside.
Village Trustee Doug Pollock suggested extending the fire department's ladder truck to its full height – 100 feet – in order to give both officials and residents a sense of what a tower of similar height might look like prior to a public hearing for issuing a special use permit for the structure.
"I think it would be helpful; to put an orange flag, or whatever, on top of [the ladder] and prop it up there," Pollock said. "Instead of speculating – if we have to speculate, we're going to assume the worst – we'll know really what this impact is."
The proposed 100-foot tower is a triangular-shaped, galvanized-steel tower that would taper from 8 feet, 9 inches at the base to 2 feet, 9 inches at the top. For purposes of comparison, the cellphone tower at Riverside-Brookfield High School is 120 feet tall.
The Riverside Public Works Department in the next few years is proposing in the next few years to replace all of the residential and commercial water meters in the village, eliminating meters that have mechanical parts in favor of ones without moving parts.
The village last replaced its water meters over a three-year period, beginning in 2004. The $800,000 initiative was paid for by homeowners and business owners. The $235 charge for the meter appeared on customers' water bills.
While the meters installed about 15 years ago represented an improvement from a meter-reading standpoint, the latest proposal would be yet another step forward.
Right now, an employee drives through the village with a device that reads meters as the vehicle passes by homes and businesses.
With the proposed system, meters would transmit data to an antenna on the tower, which would be located next to the Riverside Public Works facility in Riverside Lawn, and that data could be easily delivered to the billing department.
In addition, the system could take meter readings of the entire village at one time and has the ability to read meters up to four times a day to catch unusual water usage and pinpoint potential leaks earlier.
The antenna on the new tower would also allow the Public Works Department to better communicate water data with village hall. Public Works Director Edward Bailey told the Landmark that because the connection between the two buildings is over the telephone landline, "it's almost like dial-up speed" transmitting data.
"This would help efficiently interface with the village hall servers through the point-to-point antenna," Bailey said.
It's unclear just how much it would cost to build the tower and purchase the new meter-reading software and water meters. According to Public Works Superintendent Dan Tabb, who presented the idea to the village board on Feb. 6, the tower is the linchpin for the whole program.
"The new meters are contingent on this tower," Tabb said. "Without the tower, we're back at square one."
Pollock, who served as president-pro-tem in the absence of President Ben Sells at the Feb. 6 meeting of the village board, suggested that in addition to using the fire department's ladder truck to stand in for the tower that the village send notices of the public hearing to residences up to 250 north of Riverside Road.
That notice would be in excess of what's required by law. Because of the tower's location, no residences in Riverside proper are within the legally prescribed notice area. But trustees felt the village ought to broaden that area in the public interest.
"From a community input point of view, what is the proper notice [to the] community?" asked Trustee Edward Hannon. "There's a lot of people who are going to have a lot of opinions on this. …
"My goal as a trustee is to avoid the torches and pitchforks."
The village board is expected to revisit the subject at its meeting on Feb. 20.