Chatham can’t do without meter readers

CHATHAM – The Village Board held a special meeting last week to discuss an increase in water and sewer rates. Though board members did not mention specific numbers, they hope the implement changes to the way the services are billed starting with the next billing cycle in September.

“Our water and sewer are costing us more than we bring in,” said Mayor Tom Curran at the May 29 meeting. He said the payments on the loan for the $2 million in sewer plant upgrades will start soon and other major projects, including possibly replacing the water tower, are needed for the water system.

The village accountants, Michael Torchia and Robert Patterson from Sickler, Torchia, Allen & Churchill CPAs, attended the meeting. Mr. Torchia said that if the village wants to move forward with changing the rates officials will need to hold a public information session and a hearing this summer.

Village engineer Pat Prendergast was also there and talked about average usage for the 950 residences that use the village water. There are 800 users in the village and another 150 outside the village. Most of the water customers outside the village boundaries are in the Town of Ghent, which does not have its own water district. That is one of the things the board discussed as well.

The biggest issue right now is installing reliable water meters. The board set aside money for meters in the budget last year and in the current village fiscal year, which started for the village on June 1. The funds are intended to pay for digital water use readers to replace broken ones. With the digital readers, the meters can be read electronically from the outside homes and the data downloaded to village software for billing.

Each new meter reading device costs $8,000 and each meter costs about $200. Village Clerk Barbara Henry said that about 10% of the meters in the village don’t work and the meters in some buildings are inaccessible, which means the village must estimate the water usage for those properties.

Mr. Tochia asked for more information from the mayor and Mr. Prendergast before suggesting any rate increases. What the board discussed was adding a “delivery fee” to the water bill, much like the fee Valatie residents pay to cover the maintenance cost to the system. This is a flat few that all residents pay on top of their metered rate.

The mayor said he’d talked to the Valatie village clerk about the fee and would look into what other communities do.

The board will hold more water and sewer rate workshops but did not set any dates.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .


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