Water meters were the focus of a City of Grand Forks information session/open house Tuesday night at the seniors’ centre.
The open house allowed the city to introduce Neptune Technology Group and their representatives from Mississauga, Ont. to local residents. Neptune was awarded the recent contract to install water meters in Grand Forks.
On hand at the open house were city council members, city staff and Neptune representatives, who answered questions from the public on the installations, which will begin in September.
“The open house went extremely well with great attendance,” said Mayor Brian Taylor. “There were approximately 65 people that came through to ask some great questions and see what the installation process was going to look like.”
Andre Knights, field operations officer for Neptune, said he and his crew enjoyed the hospitality in Grand Forks and getting to meet local residents and answer questions.
Knights said that Neptune has done several projects in B.C. and Alberta, including Kamloops and Richmond.
He said they’ve heard many of the same questions and concerns from residents throughout Canada.
“Every project has its own challenges,” said Knights. “A lot of the questions people have are very common throughout any project we’ve done. We try to ensure we educate people through facts instead of hearsay. We do our best to educate them because we feel it will help resolve their concerns by having open houses, giving them information, and letting them know how the program’s going.”
Knights said they take residents’ concerns seriously.
“We want to make sure homeowners are comfortable and answer all their questions with the most respect and give them all the facts they need to know,” he said.
Knights said there is no concern regarding radiation produced by the water meters.
“These meters are radio frequency and it’s no different than the old cordless phones,” he said.
A reader using a hand-held unit reads the meters from the road. Knights said the unit emits a signal every 14 seconds for a couple of milliseconds at a time.
“For a full day it’s only emitting for a total of 44 seconds if you add it all up,” he said.
Neptune plans on beginning installation of water meters in Grand Forks the first Monday in September.
“We’re going to start on an area-by-area basis,” he said. “We’re going to divide the city into smaller areas because we find that more efficient rather than jumping all over the place.”
Knights says that residents will be receiving information booklets prompting them to book an appointment.
“These booklets will be different than the ones people just got—the orange ones, those ones are strictly information—this one will be a different colour so they can identify it. (The booklet) will have our call centre’s number where they can call and book an appointment. They can also go online as well. There will be information on that. They’ll be prompted to call only when they get that booklet.”
The cost of the water meter installation program is $1.3 million which will paid for by the federal gas tax program.
Knights said that using water meters is a fairer way of charging customers for water usage as he has seen in other communities in which they have installed water meters.
“It’s case by case, really, but it does produce a significant reduction in water usage; but it’s all dependent on the homeowner,” he said. “It’s in their control now because they will be paying for what they use. That’s the beauty of it. It’s not a flat rate anymore, it’s what you use. Only they can control it. We can’t make any guarantees because if people want to wash their car in the rain, we can’t control that. We can’t guarantee (lower water bill) unless you’re consciously controlling your consumption.”
Knights commended the City of Grand Forks for implementing the mock billing period for a year, which will give people an idea of how much they will spend will the water meters.
“(The mock billing) will allow people to adjust their consumption because they will see what they are consuming in a monthly or quarterly and adjust accordingly, which is really fair and great for them,” he said.
Knights said Neptune expects to complete the inside installations by the end of this year. He does add it will take longer to install outside (pit) meters.