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Cutting the sewage bills

Council approves new spigot meter policy

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

If you are tied into the city of Olive Hills municipal water and sewage system, you pay bills for both based on your water consumption. The assumption is that any water used by a home for washing dishes, doing laundry, taking showers or flushing toilets also ends up going through the sewage system. This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes water used for things like washing cars, filling swimming pools, or irrigating gardens goes directly into the soil instead. Beginning in 1997, according to the billing history, the city of Olive Hill began to allow citizens using water that did not pass through the city’s sewer systems to deduct that water from their sewer bill through the use of spigot meters. The way the spigot meters work is by connecting them to the outside water source, such as a garden hose, and keeping track of the water used by that source. When the spigot meters are read, any water that has gone through that meter is deducted from the home’s sewage bill.

It seems simple enough, and it’s never been a huge program – only 200 were recorded in the system, and of those only 70 were active last year and only 50 were currently in use. But with a switch to a new metering system that includes the electronic reading of meters, there are some issues that need to be addressed. Council took up those issues during their regular meeting last Tuesday and set out new policies for the use of the spigot meters.

Mayor Jerry Callihan told the council that he had temporarily suspended the distribution of spigot meters to new customers because of these needs. These included trouble with finding the location of the spigot meters, which some customers were moving from location to location on their property. The main reason, however, was because the city was currently operating at a loss on the distribution of the meters. Due to the age of the statute, Callihan explained, the city was currently stuck selling the meters to customers at a cost of $80. While that may have covered the cost of the meters when the policy was started over 20 years ago, today those meters cost the city in excess of $100 each.

“We’re already honoring (existing connections)… just not selling anymore,” Callihan explained. “We don’t want to charge someone $80 for something that costs the city $150.”

His proposal to council was to change the policy to reflect the cost of the meters for the city and to set policies that require the spigot meters to stay in one location so that meter readers could find them easily.

Council discussed the possibility of adding an electronic remote component to the spigot meters, so they could be read electronically like other water meters no matter where they were on the property. Callihan however, said adding a remote reader to these spigot meters wasn’t practical or cost-effective. In addition to the cost of the electronic reader that would have to be included, he explained, because these meters are removable he worried that the electronic components getting run over by vehicles or otherwise damaged. Because of the small number of spigot meters in use, he said, it wasn’t a problem to have them manually read. But, he said, the city did need them to stay in a consistent location during their seasonal use, usually early spring through later summer or early autumn, so that city employees didn’t spend time wandering around a property looking for them.

The new spigot meter policy approved by council changes the costs so that, instead of $80, customers will pay whatever the costs to the city are for the spigot meter, plus a $10 service fee. It also requires customers to register where the meter will be placed on the property and to keep it in that location for ease of reading.

Council approved the new policy unanimously.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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