Mayor pulls plug on water meter charge

Johnston Sun Rise ·

The approximately 1,800 residents and businesses connected to the Johnston Water Authority will soon find that an anticipated charge on their water bill has been dropped.

Since 2008, Johnston Water has contracted LaFramboise Water Service/Millennium Water to run the day-to-day operations and make any system improvements to the water supply infrastructure in town. Last October, work crews from LaFramboise began the process upgrading the water meters of all customers connected to Johnston Water.

Citing the need to modernize, prevent contamination of the system, and to stop the potential theft of water from the system, Johnston Water was going to charge ratepayers for those water meter upgrades. The new water meters come equipped with a radio transmitter, which will allow for remote readings and better monitoring of the infrastructure.

Approximately 600 meters only needed a transmitter upgrade, as those meters may have been changed since their original installation. That transmitter costs approximately $180 to be installed. For the remaining customers that have an old original meter, the cost for installation of a new meter was expected to be about $338. Customers were to be billed for the changes, which were to be paid over a two-year timeframe at approximately $42.25 to be paid quarterly for those with old meters.

After careful consideration, Mayor Joseph Polisena has decided to waive those meter fees.

“I went back, I got some numbers from the finance director, and I believe the savings that we’re going to acquire with the new meters and water savings…and I believe the water system can absorb the cost for everybody, even businesses,” said Polisensa. “The taxpayers will not pay for this, the ratepayers will pay out of the money that comes into the water system.”

According to the mayor, the upgrade project is about a third of the way finished and is expected to be completed by late May. Teams of one to four crewmembers are currently canvassing the town to make the changes, with work hours ranging from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. A typical replacement takes about an hour to complete.

“I’m trying to run it where, more or less, we’re breaking even,” said Polisena of the water system. “My major goal in introducing this technology has been to create efficiencies which will protect all rate payers. We will now be able to do this without charging each customer for the new meter.”

A letter is being sent to all those affected beginning this week informing users that the fee will be dropped.

LaFramboise Water Service has divided the town into segments and will upgrade one section at a time. Steps have been taken to make the changeover as convenient as possible based on a resident’s schedule. LaFramboise has been leaving instructions on informational door hangers that include a phone number and website for residents to make an appointment to schedule the changeover.

Customers scheduling the upgrades will be visited by a work crew with proper identification. If any resident is concerned about those crews, the mayor said to take proper precautions.

“They have an ID from the police department, and if they’re concerned for any reason, please contact the police department,” said Polisena.

Polisena believes the upgrades will save the town money by being more efficient, prevent possible contamination from those altering pipes to circumvent meters, and ensure financial fairness to rate payers. He reiterated that failure to allow workers to enter a home or business to change the meter during the project will result in a shutoff of water service.

“You try to look for ways to help people out, and I think this is a way we can do it,” said Polisena.