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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Automatic water meter installation begins Nov. 13

  • Installation of new automatic water meters for Harrisburg begins Nov. 13 and should take eight to 12 weeks with completion planned February 2014.
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  • Installation of new automatic water meters for Harrisburg begins Nov. 13 and should take eight to 12 weeks with completion planned February 2014.
    The meters are in a city warehouse on Veterans Drive, filling a room. In that room — eight per box — are enough meters to fit all of Harrisburg's roughly 3,900 residences.
    Harrisburg Water Department Supervisor Kelly Hefner said a crew from Professional Meters, Inc. of Morris will be doing the work and they hope for as little disruption to people's routines as possible.
    "By and large, most people will never know we've been there and changed them out, other than they've got a door hanger saying the meter has been changed," Hefner said.
    Crews will begin the installation after 8 a.m. — after the time most families have prepared for work and school — and knock on the door to let anyone inside the water will be shut off for a few minutes. If the meter and valve is functioning properly meter installation should take only about 10 minutes. If the valve needs replaced or there is another issue, the change out could take longer.
    Hefner wants to ensure no customers have the water shut off while showering or in the middle of some other project.
    When the change is complete the crew will hang a sign on the front door indicating the meter has been changed or asking the resident to contact the department to set up an appointment for the change to happen. Some meters are inside the home, some are behind a locked gate in the yard and the meter changing crews will not risk working on property where there is an aggressive dog.
    The meters will be installed as the department's meter reader makes his rounds.
    The automatic reader has benefits for both the consumer and the city, Hefner said.
    "The biggest benefit to consumers is in leak detection," Hefner said.
    The meters can flag out leaks of less than 1 gallon of water lost per hour.
    "We can catch things as trivial as a toilet running," Hefner said.
    Under the current system, if the person paying the bill does not catch the leak, the water department will be unaware there is a problem until the monthly meter check. Hefner said in one instance a business owner left for the weekend with a malfunctioning flapper on a toilet. Without the flappers stopping the water drain the owner lost 280 gallons of water per hour for an entire Labor Day weekend.
    The automatic system reads every meter in town four times every six hours four times a day. Instances of continual water usage will be flagged for the department to check out, minimizing the extent of leakage and halting high water bills. Water Department employee and Project Manager Jason Haney will get a list of flags to check out daily.
    Page 2 of 2 - The meters will be longer lasting than current meters which have a life expectancy of 10 years.
    "These here, they've got them down to an art. That's a 20-year meter," Haney said.
    The meters are plastic and completely lead free.
    Those wanting to cheat on their water usage will be caught. Some clever individuals figure out how to turn their water back on if it is shut off for nonpayment. The metering system will catch those instances. Everybody eventually pays for those stealing water since the city has to buy the water from Saline Valley Conservancy District whether or not someone pays their water bill.
    The new system cost the city $1.5 million which Hefner said should pay for itself within seven years through quickly catching leaks and eventually cutting the position of meter reader.
    Large water customers such as Illinois Youth Center, Saline County Law Enforcement and Detention Center, schools and Harrisburg Medical Center have already been changed out.
    The meters cost $37 for residences which the city is paying for. Commercial meters of 2-inches or larger will be purchased by the business.
    Haney said Professional Meters, Inc. will work around the schedules of businesses to install the new meters.
    Hefner said coming next on the Water Department's technological agenda is a customer interface that allows customers to monitor their own water usage online and pay their bills online. Hefner said that step is planned for late in 2014.
    Such a system would also allow the city to issue boil orders electronically directly to customers.
    "We're trying to get as paperless as we can," Hefner said.
    Currently, with the Carbondale postal distribution center closed, some customers are receiving their paper water bills only a day or two prior to the due date.
    "It was two days for a drop. Now it's five days," he said.
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