Water meter switch may get OK next week

$1.5-million project could be completed in 9 months

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By BOB UPHUES

An effort to change out every residential and commercial water meter in the village of Brookfield could begin as early as October if the village board gives the go-ahead for the project at its meeting on July 24. At that meeting, trustees are expected to vote to waive competitive bidding and approve a $1.5-million contract with Edinburg, Ill.-based Midwest Meter for meter replacement.

At the village board's Committee of the Whole meeting on July 10, Village Manager Riccardo Ginex recommended that the board approve hiring Midwest Meter, one of two industry leaders researched by village staff for the job. In addition to arranging for the replacement of just under 4,000 water meters in Brookfield, Midwest Meter would also be responsible for installing the infrastructure for a fixed-point meter reading system, which would read all water meters on a daily basis using three antennas located at different points in the village.

The readers, which can be mounted on telephone poles or rooftops, receive radio signals from transmitter units installed in each home and business. Those signals are stored by the readers and then sent via cellphone to a central computer inside village hall.

Installation of the water meters and radio transmitter units is expected to be paid for by residents in 12 installments, which will added to water bills after all the new meters are installed. According to Ginex, the entire process of changing out the meters should take roughly nine months.

The total cost for installing the meter and radio transmitter in each home is $213.65. Broken out into 12 payments, residents will be billed $17.80 per month over 12 months to pay for the new meter.

The units will be installed by personnel from a company called Professional Meters Inc., which will work as a subcontractor for Midwest Meters. Professional Meters will also send out informational mailings on the project and establish a call center for making appointments for the work to be done in each home or business.

Trustee Linda Stevanovich objected to residents paying for the installation of the new meters and transmitters, saying that the village had enough money in its water/sewer fund to cover the costs and had just issued $3 million in bonds for water system improvements.

"I'm not sure why we can't share the cost with the residents," Stevanovich said. "When we first thought about doing this eight years ago, the $2 million price tag scared us. Now that we have a surplus [in the water fund] we can afford it."

Ginex responded that "we have to be careful when we say surplus, because we need to have money for ongoing maintenance of the system. The water bonds are for the replacement of the mains."

Stevanovich was unconvinced by that explanation, saying that the village could pay for half the installation cost without endangering the village's surplus in the water fund.

"I think we can split this with residents," she said. "They might be more willing to accept this."

Brookfield resident and former Trustee Wil Brennan said that Brookfield also might be able to save money by having Public Works employees install the meters. He pointed out information obtained from the Justice/Willow Springs Water Commission stating that they had saved $67 per meter by handling installation in house.

But Village President Michael Garvey said that Brookfield Public Works Director William Brandt told him that handling scheduling and installation in house would be "a disaster." Installing water meters in house would also likely take several years versus the nine-month window promised by Midwest Meter.

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