Water conservation plan discussed

Englewood seeks to change flat-rate customers over to meters

Courtesy photo
Installation is complete on this water meter with the electronics needed so it can be read from the street. The city is preparing to launch a program seeking volunteers now on a flat-rate billing system to have a meter installed. Utility officials say generally the meter-rate billing is less than the resident pays on a flat-rate system.

Englewood is dealing with the state’s concerns about aspects of the city water conservation plan and has plans to change flat-rate customers over to meters.

“The state wanted us to put in a system to force residents on a flat-rate water bill to install water meters,” Stu Fonda, utility director, told the city council at a Feb. 10 study session. “We recommend a campaign to enlist volunteers now on flat-rate water billing who will agree to have a water meter installed.

“The goal is 100 in a year and 250 in five years. … Under the proposal, the city will install a meter in a home now on flat-rate billing with a system for the homeowner to pay for the meter and installation without a large single transaction.”

Traditionally, the meter rate is less than the flat rate. Fonda said the e-meter assist program has the homeowner continue to pay the flat rate and deduct the difference in the bill if it had been charged at the meter rate. The difference is applied to the cost of the meter and its installation. Once the meter and installation bills are paid, the homeowner then is billed according to the water meter reading.

He said there are still about 1,700 homes in Englewood on a flat-rate billing system for water. John Bock, utilities manager of administration, said a water meter to be installed inside the house costs the homeowner $251.

“If the homeowner has the pit and wants the meter installed outside, we use a smaller meter and the cost is $140,” he said. “If the city has to dig the pit, the meter and installation will cost $380.”

He said all meters the city installed read electronically from outside the home.

“Once the city council approves the changes to the water conservation plan and the state approves it, we will begin seeking volunteers to have meters installed,” the utility director said. “We expect to start the campaign to sign up volunteers in late spring or early summer.”

Mayor Randy Penn’s home has been on a flat rate for years and he has volunteered to be part of the city’s effort to eventually have all homes in the city on water meters.

In the 1960s, all Englewood homes were on a flat-rate billing system. Bock said it was probably at least 50 years ago when city workers talked with residents to estimate water use and set the flat rate for the water bill.

“At the time flat rates were set, many homeowners had children living with them so they used more water,” he said. “We often find that now, it is just husband and wife at the home. When we put a meter in a home like that, we find the meter bill is far less than the flat rate.”

Fonda said the city launched the effort to convert all homes to meters about 1985. At that time, there were 9,000 homes on the flat-rate billing system.

The city rules required that, when a home is sold, a water meter must be installed. Also, Englewood instituted a program that would install a water meter at the homeowner’s request.