ALPENA - United Water is in the process of changing out old water meters on Alpena's north side, but it is having a difficult time scheduling appointments with many residents to have the replacements made. In order to motivate them, Alpena Municipal Council voted 5-0 to allow the company to shut off water in homes where people aren't complying with requests made via letter, phone calls and visits. Besides an interruption of service, the customer could also face a $40 charge for the shutoff and the reconnect.
United Water Operations Manager Mike Glowinski said his staff has been working diligently to reach residents and explain that meters need to be swapped, but for one reason or another some are avoiding making an appointment.
"We have provided them with a written notice of the program about a month ago. We have made calls and hung door hangers, and we are now on the fourth notice, which is informing people we have the legal right to shut off their water until they make an appointment to allow us into the home and do the installation," Glowinski said. "I do think there are going to be situations where we are going to shut it off to get people's attention."
Mayor Matt Waligora said he wishes there was another way to get residents to book an appointment, but United Water has done everything it can short of stopping service, and the council really had no choice but to send a message.
"I don't want to shut anybody's water off, that is uncool. I expect some complaints for sure," Waligora said. "Then again it seems like we have exhausted everything and used our due diligence, and the water company has done their best to contact these people. I recommend people call and schedule as soon as possible."
Councilman Mike Nunneley said he hoped it hadn't come to this drastic measure, but the longer it takes to install all of the meters, the more it will cost the city.
"It is very unfortunate that we have to take this drastic of an action, but folks have been notified multiple times, and this is a project that has been in the news for quite some time and we need to get moving on it," Nunneley said. "Every time we have a meter we can't do systematically it costs everyone more money. Please take the notification seriously and get these done as quickly as possible. No one is going to enjoy standing in the shower, flipping the switch and having nothing come out. We don't want people to have to deal with that, so please schedule the appointment."
Besides having the water shut off, the customer will have to pay a $20 fee for both the shutoff and the reconnect.
In other business:
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.