Water meters: Columbus Junction approves radio read units
COLUMBUS JUNCTION

Water meters: Columbus Junction approves radio read units

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Columbus Junction City Hall

Columbus Junction City Hall

COLUMBUS JUNCTION — Columbus Junction’s aging water meters will be replaced later this year with new radio read units as part of a $271,200 changeover, the city council agreed Wednesday, capping an investigation that began several months ago.

Although council members had indicated either being generally supportive or neutral to the proposal last month during a presentation on the type of meter recommended by city staff, the final decision easily passed on a 4-0 vote, with council member Jason Payne absent.

However, before the vote, Mayor Mark Huston sounded unsure which direction the council would take.

“I don’t know if this is something you want to do,” he told the council.

Council member Tracy Harris, who made the motion to move forward with the changeover, indicated he had supported the idea since it was first presented to the council last May.

“I’ve been pushing (public works staffer) Todd (Salazar) to do this,” Harris said shortly before moving to proceed with the project.

Harris said he had received comments from people who felt the city should have taken more bids on the new meters, but Salazar reminded the council that other companies had presented proposals.

Salazar said the water meters offered by Ferguson Waterworks, Fargo, N.D., were being recommended by the staff because of their performance and other factors. He said the models did not have any exposed wiring, moving parts or other components that could be rigged, making the units tamper-proof. He said any effort to bypass or modify the meters would cause an alarm signal to be sent to the city alerting the staff to a problem.

Salazar also reminded the council about the major benefits the radio read units will provide. He said the units can sense water leaks and flag an account, often before a resident even knows there is a problem.

Reading the meters will also only take about one hour, compared with the several days the current manual reads take.

Officials had also previously indicated they felt some of the city’s existing 811 meters were aging to the point where they were no longer accurately reflecting water use. The new meters are expected to provide more accurate readings and hopefully more revenue for the city, officials said.

The new meters will cost $240 each, with other more specialized units, software and installation costs bringing the total project cost to $271,200. Although city officials agreed that having a Ferguson crew do the installation was preferred, Salazar said some units could be shipped early and he and other city staff could begin some installations.

In the meantime, the council will need to decide how to finance the project. One idea may be to begin collecting a $5 per meter per month surcharge. Officials said the city’s water ordinance will need to be amended and postponed any decision on that until a later meeting.

No installations by the company are expected until May.

In other action, the council:

• Held a required public hearing on a proposed sewer system improvement project;

• Agreed to hold a March 11 public hearing on its proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which is still being developed;

• Gave permission for the area Welsh community to hold a St. David’s Day parade on March 7 at 1 p.m. from the viaduct to the American Legion;

• Approved a resolution authorizing Alliant Energy to replace a light bulb in a street light.

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