Water meter hopes are high

Oak Creek Town Board optimistic about installation project

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— Although Oak Creek town officials have yet to hire a consultant to guide them through a proposed water meter installation project, it's looking very likely that the town will be able to make good on that goal, Mayor J. Elliott said Friday.

The Town Board heard a presentation at its meeting Thursday night from Webb Jones, a consultant with Steamboat Springs-based Water Consulting Group. Jones told the town that funds from the state Department of Local Affairs and other sources will likely support a feasibility study and assist with an ultimate installation project.

"It looks very promising," Trustee Dave Ege said Friday.

Water meters have been expressed as a goal by Oak Creek town boards for years, and the current Town Board is stressing their installation both to increase the fairness of town water billing and to encourage water conservation, Elliott said.

The board budgeted $5,000 for preliminary work this year to install water meters for Oak Creek's water customers and move to a tiered rate structure, instead of its current flat rate fees. A preliminary scope of work presented Thursday by Jones puts the price tag on a feasibility study, completed in July, at $14,250 - with the town paying for 20 percent, or $2,850, and grant funds covering the rest.

Jones, who splits his time between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs, is an engineer and consultant who works primarily with developers and water districts on areas of water rights, rate studies, and project management.

He served as the manager of the East Larimer County Water District for 15 years and before that was with the city of Fort Collins when the city went from a flat rate to a metered system for residential customers, Jones said.

Jones said a feasibility study for the project will not just examine a tiered-rate structure and the installation project itself, but all the different administrative, operational and regulatory elements of water metering.

Issues that Oak Creek would have to take a look at would be writing ordinances that would allow access to meters at people's homes to and develop procedures to address malfunctioning meters, disputed meter readings and leaks, Jones said.

"Revenue with meters can be quite different, too," Jones said. "That revenue can vary, and you need to be careful how you set those rates to cover all the costs that are going to be incurred by the water department."

If the town decides to proceed with water meter installation, after the completion of an eventual feasibility study, Jones estimated the project would take about five months. One crew can install about three meters a day, and Oak Creek would need to install about 490 meters to serve its existing customers, he said.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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