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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

With same workers reading electric, water meters, billing cycles change

As published in the Record Journal, Wednesday June 20, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff

(203) 317-2235

Residents used to paying their water and sewer bills in June, September and February may find themselves writing those checks one to two months earlier than usual.

Two-thirds of the town’s water billing dates will shift this summer as the Electric Division takes over meter reading for the Water and Sewer Division. Public Utilities Director George Adair said the consolidation is a cost-saving measure that will avoid having the town perform redundant work.

“On the water side for billing we had several meter men who were going out reading water meters in the same place (the electric meter readers) were reading electric meters,” Adair said. “This was a move we made from an efficiency standpoint.”

The change allowed the Water Division to eliminate its one meter reader position this year — a vacant position at the time.

“We worked this out with the respective collective bargaining units,” Adair said.

The town’s five Electric Division readers now read household water meters monthly, at the same time they read electric meters. The new reading system started in May, and some residents will see bills from the new cycles as early as July, according to Roger M. Dann, the Water and Sewer Division General Manager.

One-third of the town, the East side, will retain the traditional schedule, with clients receiving their next water bill in September, said Dann; customers in the center of town,
roughly Wilbur Cross Parkway to North or South Elm Street, will see an August bill; and the West side will see one in July. Before their first bill, residents will receive a notice informing them of the change.

Although electricity is billed monthly, the Water and Sewer Department will retain its 90-day billing cycle for the time being. Adair said the department may discuss moving the bills monthly, but any changes would be in the far future, and subject to public input. The change would require more funding in the way of staff time and supplies for putting together bills.

Utilities officials say the change will benefit users. In the past, water meters were sometimes read a full three months before a bill went out. For customers with unknown leaks and other issues affecting water use, that means it would sometimes take them several months to discover a problem. New monthly readings mean rates are measured just a month before a bill is issued — so residents can track their own usage. The Water Department also has a better handle on usage irregularities more quickly.

“A lot of the concerns we get relate to high consumption. Often it’s going to be the toilet leaking ... if you can catch that and stop it sooner, it’s good for the customer,” Dann said.

Adair said the department championed the change primarily for the sake of customers, but with monthly revenue now coming in, it was also good from a business standpoint for the town. “It also evens up our cash flow,” Adair said.

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