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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Businesses in Colfax will soon have new “smart” water meters that can help pinpoint water loss.
The Colfax Village Board approved buying 20 of the one-inch Kamstrup smart water meters from the Dakota Supply Group Inc. for total cost of $6,280 at the January 14 meeting.
New water meters for businesses would be Phase 2 of the project to replace water meters in Colfax, said Rand Bates, director of public works.
Once the meters are replaced at businesses, almost the whole village will have new smart meters with the exception of the fire station and few other locations with meters larger than the one-inch, he said.
Replacing the larger meters will not be necessary, Bates said, because there are only a few of them in the village, and reading the larger meters manually does not take very long.
Colfax replaced residential water meters with the new smart meters last year.
The new meters allow public works employees to drive up and down the streets with a computer application installed on an electronic device to read the water meters. The information from the meter readings is then uploaded to the computer of Sheila Riemer, deputy clerk-treasurer, so the computer software on Riemer’s computer can calculate the water bills.
Under the old system, public works employees stopped at each residence to manually read the meters. The information was given to Riemer who then had to manually calculate each water bill.
By all accounts, the new water meters save a substantial amount of time for village employees.
The new water meters begin reading water usage from the first gallon. The old meters measured by the 100 gallons. If a residence used 120 gallons, for example, the meter reading would be 100 gallons. With the new meters, if a residence uses 120 gallons, the meter reading is 120 gallons.
Carey Davis, village trustee, asked what village residents have to say about the new meters.
Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, said the village clerk’s office does receive calls from residents about their water bills.
The new system documents water usage, making it possible to see where there are spikes, Niggemann said.
For example, if a residence consistently has a spike on Fridays, it could turn out the spikes are due to a normal activity that uses water, such as washing loads of laundry, she said.
Since the new residential meters have been installed, Bates said there have been about 10 water utility customers who were able to identify leaks in their water systems.
The Outhouse Tavern, for example, used 110,000 gallons of water in a short period of time.
With the old system, Bates said he would not have known there was a problem for three months until the meters were read again.
Bates said he reads the water meters about once a week to help identify problem areas.
According to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, based on annual report data from 2012 to 2016, the Colfax water utility had losses of 28,000 gallons to 32,000 gallons of water per customer each year (non-revenue water).
The value of the water lost is estimated at between $36,000 and $92,000 each year, the PSC says.
So far, Niggemann said, the water utility is receiving $2,000 to $3,000 more in revenue per quarter.
Don Logslett, public works employee, noted water mains in Colfax also are leaking underground.
The amount of water loss is decreasing because whenever the village takes on a street reconstruction project and the streets are dug up, more leaks are discovered, he said.
During street reconstruction projects, the water and sewer mains are replaced.
Anne Jenson, village trustee, pointed out that village residents will be paying more for water since the water is now measured by the gallon and also will be paying more for the sewer utility because the village board approved a rate increase.
The Colfax Village Board approved a sewer rate increase of 10 percent in December to help pay for the Red Cedar River bank stabilization project near the village’s wastewater treatment lagoons.
The village’s share of the cost for the Red Cedar River bank project is expected to be somewhere around $600,000.
Colfax’s sewer utility is deregulated, so rate increases do not have to be approved by the PSC.
Niggemann said when the additional revenue is no longer needed for the sewer utility, the village board could consider decreasing the sewer rate.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved purchasing the one-inch meters at a cost of $6,280.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a training request for Tony Bell to take the advanced EMT course at Chippewa Valley Technical College during the spring of 2019 semester.
• Approved a training request for Rand Bates, Don Logslett and Ryan Bauer to attend the First Supply Annual Municipal Training Day on February 20 in Eau Claire. Colfax public works employees have been attending this training for the past few years, and during the training, they have been learning how to repair hydrants in steps. This year, the training day will focus on another step or a different part of the hydrant. The training does not charge a fee for registration or tuition.
• Approved a temporary Class “B”/ “Class B” retailer’s liquor license for the Colfax Woman’s Club for the beer and wine tasting event at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center on January 26.
• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Dalton Bradford (Kyle’s Market) from January 14 to June 30, 2019.
• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Lyndsey Pederson (A Little Slice of Italy) from January 14 to June 30, 2019.
• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Cierra Sarauer (Express Mart) from June 14 to June 30, 2019.
• Approved the master contract with Ayres Associates and also approved the individual supplemental contract to move forward with the Roosevelt Street construction project.
• Learned from Niggemann that the developer’s agreement for transferring Soo Park to the Colfax Railroad Museum is close to being completed. Several board members said if the agreement is not finished soon and signed, the issue should come back to the village board.