Oak Creek looks at water-billing options

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The Oak Creek Town Board on Thursday continued a discussion about installing water meters at town homes and businesses, a project that could take three years or longer to start.

Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman said that although she knows residents would benefit from water meters, the town does not have the necessary funds to tackle the project.

Rodeman projected the cost of the project at about $523,000. Rodeman warned that by the time the town would be ready to undertake the job, the costs could be much higher.

"The importance of the town getting meters is incredible. I really believe that meters would make us money, not cost us money," she said.

Rodeman said one of the main problems with installing water meters is that so many of the homes in Oak Creek do not have crawl spaces or basements to install less-expensive inside meters. The town would have to install more costly pit meters.

Many in town want water meters to make billing fair. Currently, all businesses and residences pay the same flat fee for water. Some residents have said they don't think they should pay the same as a business that uses much more water than they do.

Rodeman said the $110,000 already budgeted for the project doesn't come close to matching the 30 percent to 40 percent grant the town needs.

Rodeman proposed starting a reserve fund so future town boards would be able to pay for the project or future work at Sher--iff's Reservoir.

Public Works Director Jim Photos said he agrees the project is worth the town's consideration, though he cautioned against making any decisions without proper research and study.

"Right now, there are so many variables we don't know. We don't know how many people would need pit meters. We don't know where the water shut-offs are. We have no idea," he said.

Rodeman and other board members discussed what could be done in the near future to make the town's water billing more equal.

Rodeman suggested writing a resolution that would require new property built in Oak Creek to install water meters and any sale of existing property to include a statement forcing the new owner to install a water meter.

Rodeman said that the benefits of the water meters outweigh any negatives because residents would be able to pay for what they use, which oftentimes makes people more aware of the amount of water they use.

"You probably never are going to be able to appeal to anyone's conscience and make them realize that water is a natural resource that will dry up and go away if we aren't careful. People are wasteful. They don't think about anything except their own instant gratification," Town Board member Karen Halterman said.

The Town Board will continue its discussion about how to begin a reserve fund for the project during its upcoming budget meetings. It also will continue to look into drafting a resolution that could change the future water billing in Oak Creek.

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