400 must get water meters or get shut off

TUPPER LAKE — Around 400 village water department users still need to send in their paperwork letting the village install mandatory water meters, or their water will be shut off.

The meters will have no influence on residents’ water rates and village board Trustee Clint Hollingsworth has said the meters will be used more as monitors.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation requires them.

After the village started pumping cleaner water with less chemicals from new wells at Pitchfork Pond last summer, the DEC notified the village that it must install the water meters or it would not receive its water withdrawal permit. Not doing so would also put the village in violation and could result in fines.

“We don’t have an option,” water department Superintendent Mark Robillard said at a village board meeting Wednesday.

Mayor Paul Maroun said the village will not use the meters for anything but data and pinpointing leaks, and that the project to install the meters will cost ratepayers nothing. Maroun said the meter-installing contractor would like to have each neighborhood ready to go so it can go down the street, doing one after another, but responses have been spotty.

Of the 2,195 easement letters sent to village and town residents on the department’s water lines, 1,758 have been returned, according to Kevin Feuka, project manager and engineer for the C2AE consulting firm.

“The village board needs to draw a line in the sand and stick to it,” Trustee Ron LaScala said. “Nobody gets any special treatment. Bottom line, you have to be in by this date. After that date we may have to start shutting people off.”

Installation is estimated to begin in August. Maroun said it would be more expensive to have the installation company come back and finish putting in a couple hundred meters later.

“People who haven’t sent in their easement forms, please send them in,” Maroun said. “It’s not about being mean; it’s to get the project done in a timely manner to save the taxpayers money.”

The village board decided to call each of the homeowners who have not yet responded instead of sending another mailer. It will set a date to sit in the village office and make all the calls individually.

“Like a telethon,” Hollingsworth said.

North Country Contractors LLC has been slated to install the meters. The bid for the meters, uninstalled, came in at the village board meeting at $1,250,000. Maroun said the village was prepared for that price and had already budgeted for it. Feuka estimated that the units would be delivered in three or four weeks. The village board also approved a change order to install the first 67% of units, most of which are the easier, indoor ones.

At a Tupper Lake town board meeting Feuka spoke at, town resident Lisa Shaw said there was an option on the paperwork to install an inside or outside meter, which she learned was not true.

“Therein lies the problem. It was not intended to be an option,” Feuka said, and apologized for the misprint.

Tupper Lake Free Press Editor Dan McClelland asked if it would cost ratepayers to bury a meter outside the house, for houses without basements. The meters can be read remotely, even underground.

“The simple answer is no, because technically the project funds installation, whether it is a pit or not,” Feuka said. “But the village has to, I guess, approve why it has to go outside, because obviously you keep the costs down if it can go inside. They’re going to try to make sure it goes inside.”

He said he was unsure if it would cost someone money if they didn’t need an outside pit but wanted one anyway.

Feuka said North Country Contractors has set a high rate for retro-fitting the meters into existing pipes, estimating it can install 80 meters a week.

“If they really meet that, that’s phenomenal,” Feuka said. “We’re definitely pushing for toward the end of 2020. That’s what the easements said.”