River Falls water rates to increase

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2014

River Falls residents learned Tuesday night that the town has made it through the pre-application phase of a process to install radio-read water meters within the town limits, and that rates will go up.

David Hicks and Associates has helped the town with the $129,000 application through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which is a low-interest loan program intended to finance public infrastructure improvement. It is funded through a blend of state and federal capitalization funds.

Joe Harmon, of the firm, told those gathered at Tuesday’s public hearing that the full application was due in May, and that, if funded, the town would be able to change out all the manual-read meters.

Using the radio read-meters, Harmon said town employees could read the meters by simply driving down a street. There is a laptop and antenna that communicates with the meter, he said.

“Each meter has it’s own EIN number,” he said. “And that’s how it’s read. When they are changed out, they will write down the old reading and associate it with a new EIN number.”

“This will help on water loss,” he said. “Your water loss is actually high, which happens when meters age, and become slow.”

Harmon said the software enables town officials to print a history from the new meters that can show hour-by-hour results, in order to point out where a potential spike occurred on a water bill.

Additionally, it will alleviate customers who attempt to turn their meters backward.

Harmon said that the Town of Red Level and the Covington County Water Authority have also switched to these meters.

The town has 336 customers on its water system, and Harmon said he allotted for 350 new meters, in order to give the town extras.

Council members present asked about an expected timeframe.

“We will typically hear something by September or October,” Harmon said. “We’ll get closing-out documents by November or December and typically start projects by January.”

Harmon said the $129,000 also includes installation, a year of support and billing interface.

Additionally, it is expected to cut down on the amount of time it takes to read meters.

City Clerk Mary Ann Andrews said she spoke to officials with the Town of Red Level, which has around 300 customers, and it takes an hour or 1.5 hours to read its meters.

Residents can expect their water rates to increase, officials said.

It’s expected to be discussed at next month’s council meeting.