Would you rather pore over thousands of water meter reading postcards, transferring numbers by hand, or let a computer do the work while you drive down the street?
That's the question Bob Blair of Blair Supply Company posed to the Ballston Town Board on Tuesday, April 28, as he made a case for upgrading the town's water meters to models that transmit their readings wirelessly, making it easier for town employees to collect and order the data.
Ballston sends postcards to residents twice a year asking them to report their water meter reading. Of course, participation is not 100 percent, and the readings may not always be truthful.
What you got right now is a local read register. You have to go in the house and actually read the meter, write it down and give it to the water clerk, said Blair, whose Rochester-based company has work with Ballston for a decade.
The newest models of water meters, in comparison, transmit readings every five seconds or so, making it possible for an employee with a laptop to drive about town collecting up-to-date readings without getting the homeowner involved.
There would be costs involved with an upgrade, of course. A single meter runs $170 from Badger Meter Inc., Blair's supplier, but a package including 70 meters, a laptop, software and training runs at $24,000, with bulk discounts for large purchases of additional meters.
The Town Board indicated that the water clerk has been asked to compile data on reporting habits and the time spent compiling readings for comparison. Supervisor Patti Southworth said that compiling readings is "labor intensive" for the water department.
"It would relieve the responsibility for the homeowner. It would also save on administrative time," she said. "It might be the time to consider it."
Grant opportunities are available for upgrading. The state archives offers grants that are handed out every summer, and the federal economic stimulus plan includes money for green projects like new water meters, the reasoning being that accurate meters would curtail water usage, which is good for the environment.