East Williston water meter opt-out comes at cost

East Williston water meter opt-out comes at cost
The East Williston board of trustees held a public hearing last April on fines associated with upgrading residents' water meters. Opting-out could mean charges upwards of $250. (Photo by Samuele Petruccelli)

Approaching the finish line of a years-long initiative, East Williston residents could face hundreds of dollars in fees if they do not upgrade their water meters.

If they haven’t already, homeowners must purchase at least part of a new meter under a modernization effort taken up by the village. Though residents can opt out of the installation, they will be faced with annual fees upwards of $250.

Mayor Bonnie Parente said East Williston was among the last villages not to have water meters read from outside the home, rather than requiring a technician to enter.

“It is old-fashioned, outdated, antiquated technology,” Parente said of some of the meters that were installed in the 1950s. “Like all of our surrounding municipalities – who for several years have had meters that you could read remotely outside of the home, not necessitating residents to be home and make appointments – we felt the need to catch up to modern technology.”

Catching up will come at a price. The village said last year that the updated meters would cost $270 to $917, depending on the size, including installation.

Though the cost of replacing meters could have been absorbed into village taxes, Parente said that would make some residents take on a portion of commercial properties’ fees, and being billed per household is more cost efficient.

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“The majority of people are saving money this way,” Parente said. “Instead of making our single-family home residents pay for homes with larger meters, which is what you would have to do if you built it into the taxes, we decided to do a one-time fee where everybody pays for the meter that fits into their own home.”

The program to upgrade East Williston’s meters involves both cellular and noncellular technology, said Bonnie Kreisman, secretary to the Board of Trustees.

“The meter itself is a piece of brass that attaches to a pipe at one end and a pipe at the other end,” Kreisman said. “The next piece is called the register or the head, basically provides a display. These two pieces are manual, no sort of smart technology.”

Declining to install this portion of the water meter is accompanied by a $250 fee. An additional $250 would be charged each year the meter is not installed.

“The third piece is the endpoint,” Kreisman said. “That is the transmitter that sends out the water reading to the cloud and then reports it. The transmitter is the part with the smart technology.”

Declining to install this portion of the meter is accompanied by a $100 fee. Subsequently, the water usage data would have to be manually read twice a year, an added charge of $100, $50 per reading.

Residents who choose to install the equipment are required to schedule an appointment by Dec.  31, though exceptions are being made. For those who choose not to upgrade and ignore the required fees, charges would eventually appear on their taxes in the same way as an unpaid water bill.

And although an opt-out program for installing the meter exists, there is no opt-out of purchase. That means a resident must buy the new noncellular equipment, and pay all associated fees with their decision.

Though upgrading the water infrastructure in East Williston has been in the works for several years, the village held a public hearing on fees associated with the program in early April. Parente said the village will use emails and monthly flyers to spread the word on the program.

“We do have some residents who are reluctant to have a new meter installed,” Kreisman said. “They do have the ability to opt out of installing the meter and cellular technology, but it does come with a price.”

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