By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Residents in the village of Colfax will have new “smart” water meters within the next several months.
Based on a recommendation from the public works committee, the Colfax Village Board approved buying new residential water meters at the January 9 meeting at a cost of $82,075.
The new water meters will be read with computer software and a tablet computer that will allow public works employees to drive up and down the streets to read the meters rather than having to enter each house to read the meter and record the numbers.
The Kamstrup meters will be purchased from the Dakota Supply Group out of Burnsville, Minnesota, on a seven year financing plan at 3.263 percent interest with an annual payment of $13,530.
Prior to the village board meeting, the public works committee met to discuss how the residential meters would be changed out, to make a recommendation for purchasing the meters and to make a recommendation on a financing option.
Rand Bates, director of public works, and Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, presented a map that divided the village by sections from one to seven.
The plan for changing out the residential meters is to take one section at a time and change all the meters in that section before moving on to the next section of town.
The sections of town will not necessarily be taken in order, but here is how they are divided up:
• Section 1 is the Viking Addition with 71 water meters.
• Section 2 is north of University Street from the school district to county Highway M and has 65 water meters.
• Section 3 is west of Main Street and includes River Street, Cedar Street, Maple Street and West Street with 52 water meters.
• Section 4 is along Railroad Avenue and extends north to state Highway 40/ University Street with 54 water meters.
• Section 5 is east of Main Street and includes First Avenue, Pine Street, Balsam Street, and Evergreen Street with 86 water meters.
• Section 6 is west of Highway 40 on the south side of town from Legion Drive to Bremer Avenue and includes 84 water meters.
• Section 7 is east of Highway 40 on the south side of town from the railroad tracks to Park Drive and includes 55 water meters.
All together, there are 467 meters on the list, although some of them are inactive. Village officials are planning to purchase 461 water meters right now.
The new meters will only be installed in residences, and the village is not planning to purchase new commercial or industrial water meters.
Changing out each meter is expected to take about 30 minutes.
Each resident will be sent a letter with the date and the time for changing the water meter.
If the particular date or time does not work for a specific resident, it is up to that person to call the clerk’s office to reschedule.
Bates said he most definitely did not want to tell village residents that public works employees would be there between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any given day.
“I don’t want to make everyone stay home all day until we get there at 4 o’clock,” Bates said.
The plan is “to not stop until the list is completed for that day, even if they are running late,” Niggemann said.
If a particular resident is not at home at the scheduled time, the resident will be sent a second notice for scheduling. If the resident misses the second scheduled time, the third notice will be a shut-off notice, and the water will be shut off at that residence after 48 hours, Niggemann said.
HydroCorp, the company that is doing cross connection inspections for Colfax, changed out 1,800 meters in Prescott and 1,500 meters in Hudson, Bates said.
Between Prescott and Hudson, there were only three residences where they ended up shutting off the water, he said.
“They changed their minds real fast when they had no water,” Bates noted.
Mark Halpin, village trustee, said some neighbors would probably be willing to let a public works employee into a house for another neighbor who could not be home at the scheduled time.
Bates noted that public works employees never enter a home in Colfax alone and that two public works employees always go into a house.
What if a property owner has more than one property? Would all of the meters for one property owner be changed the same day, asked Village Trustee Casey Rihn.
“Yes. If we can. That way it would only be a one-time deal for the owner,” Bates said.
The public works committee recommended, and the village board agreed, that in addition to sending out notices to village residents, the schedules for changing the water meters should be posted in the three places where the village posts meeting notices.
Niggemann pointed out that the schedule could also be posted to the Colfax Public Library’s Facebook page, posted to the village’s website and published in the Colfax Messenger.
Elmwood has recently installed the new Kamstrup meters, and representatives from Colfax visited Elmwood last fall to learn more about the water meters.
“Elmwood said they did (the scheduling) with a lot of phone calls,” Niggemann said.
Telephone calls in Colfax would not be very efficient because the telephone numbers for village residents need to be updated, and the list is not very accurate, she noted.
The public works committee unanimously recommended that the village board approve the implementation plan and the plan for sending out and posting notices.
Casey Rihn serves as chair of the public works committee. Village trustees Keith Burcham and David Wolff, along with Village President Scott Gunnufson, also serve on the committee.
The cost for 410 Kamstrup water meters will be $77,080.
In addition, the village must purchase the Kamstrup READy Suite starter kit for $4,995.
The starter kit includes a wireless composite flow meter, antennas for vehicles, a converter base, a Bluetooth optical head, and a READy manager for water drive-by.
In addition, the village will pay a one-time fee of $401.63 for “tier three” that includes 251 to 800 meters.
The village will pay an annual hosting and support fee of $922.85 for the tier three number of meters.
The annual fee includes hardware and software for the server, data backup, security, virus protection, surveillance and monitoring, and system support.
The original estimate had included $1,200 for a billing software interface, but Workhorse, the village’s financial software, is already set up to interface with READy software, Niggemann said.
Under the existing manual system, it takes two people one week to physically read all of the residential meters in Colfax, Bates said.
After the meters are read, Sheila Riemer, deputy clerk-treasurer, must then make the calculations by hand and enter the numbers into the billing software.
After the computer software reads the Kamstrup meters, the information can be uploaded to the computer in the clerk’s office without having to manually enter each number.
Instead of two employees taking a week to read all of the meters, one employee will be able to read the meters in Colfax in a matter of hours, Bates said.
In addition, the new meters are much more sensitive and will be able to detect leaks immediately, so that if a toilet is leaking or a yard faucet is leaking, “we will be able to catch that,” he said.
Bates and Niggemann said village residents do dispute water bills from time to time.
With the Kamstrup meters and computer software, village employees will be able to make printouts of water usage going back for more than a year.
In one instance in Elmwood, a couple said it was not possible for them to have used as much water as was being billed. The water usage was printed out, and a spike in the water use showed on a particular day. After thinking about it for a bit, they realized the day the water usage spiked was a Saturday. As it turned out, their children had been in the backyard playing with the hose, had not turned the hose off and it had left it running for a period of time, Bates said.
During the village board meeting, Village Trustee Annie Schieber asked about the time frame for changing out the residential water meters.
“As soon as possible,” Bates said, noting that winter and early spring is a good time for public works employees to change out water meters.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved the recommendation from the public works committee for the implementation plan and for purchasing the water meters with seven year financing.