ALPENA - After years of trying to find an affordable solution to the City of Alpena's outdated water meters that provide inaccurate readings, United Water stepped forward with an offer Alpena Municipal Council couldn't turn down.
United Water offered to invest approximately $1.5 million for about 4,900 new water meters in return for an eight-year extension of its contract services for the city. After a unanimous vote the deal was consummated. The move comes as existing meters become more obsolete and lose revenue.
United Water's Mike Glowinski said something needed to be done, and because the company and the city have a long-standing relationship, believed it was important for both sides to work together to fix the problem.
"We have a 25-year partnership and have seen this as being a vulnerability for the utility for about the last 16 years," Glowinski said. "The meters are not reading accurately. We know that. This is a way to ... make our partnership more stable and ensuring our long-term relationship."
The new meters are guaranteed for the life of the batteries in them, which is 20 years, and are read wirelessly. Glowinski said the new meters will help the water department detect problems in people's water systems quickly and make sure they pay for the water they use.
"There are a number of benefits the customers will get from this," he said. "One is we won't have to go into the home to read the meter. If they should have a leak in their home, we will be able to detect that much more quickly, and this will guarantee that everyone is paying for what they use. Right now some people aren't paying for the entire volume they are using."
Glowinski said now that council has approved the deal, installation of the meters could begin as early as May and could be completed in about six months.
Councilman Mike Nunneley, who has been against switching out meters because of the cost and the effect it could have on people's wallets, said the deal from United Water was too good to pass up.
"I was the loudest opponent on this because I didn't like the financing," Nunneley said. "I asked staff to think of something outside of the box, and and I give them credit for going out and finding a different solution to this. Thanks to our partners at United Water. This is zero percent financing ... This changeover will bring us in today's world with meters which are able to be read in the most economical and technically advanced way and gives us the solution for 20 years."
After the first vote, Nunneley made another that will create a special fund in which a yet-to-be-determined percentage of future revenue will be put away, so when the new pumps begin to fail years from now, there will be money on hand to replace them.
"What I don't want to see happen is the leaders who take our places have to fight to find a way to replace them when the lifespan of these ends," Nunneley said. "I think it will be beneficial to have something in place for them to work with."
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Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689.