Colonial Beach Residents are not the only ones who are wondering when water meter data will be available to them. Councilman Stephen Cirbee asked if residents will have access to the data, showing their average water usage, before the use-per-gallon-billing is implemented.
Cirbee's is concerned that residents will not be able to calculate their usage and may be hit with a huge surprise when water begins to be billed by the gallon, something Cirbee doesn't want to see happen. Cirbee wants residents to be able to “forecast their budget.”
At the November 15, 2018 meeting, Town Manager Quinn Robertson reported that the water meter project is moving forward. “We have made contact with the original company that was hired two years ago, we are back in discussion, we've reached out to them to set rates.”
Robertson was reluctant to give definite answers, stating he would rather leave it up to Rob Murphy, who was unable to attend the November meeting. Public Works Director Rob Murphy is overseeing the project and is much more familiar with specific details and time-lines for the completion of meter installation and implementation of the per-gallon-billing.
Municipal & Financial Services Group (MFSG) were contracted back in May of 2016 by the Town of Colonial Beach to develop a long term utilities financial plan and model for the Town to work with. The plan was to include developing water and sewer rates for five years.
MFSG has also been tasked with public education to inform customers as to the methodology used to determine the rate structure.
In 2015, under Town Manager Val Foulds, the town recognized the need for several upgrades including the water holding tank at Robin Grove Park facility. The cost for repairs was estimated at $1,053,700.00 along with another $1,170,500.00 needed for replacement of waterlines.
At the time this project need was realized, the town of Colonial Beach utilized portable generators which were moved from one pumping station to another in times of power failure.
So included in the Robin Grove Facility project was an emergency generator at an estimated cost of $110,000.00.
As a condition of the financing for this project, the town had to install water meters throughout, raising the cost of the project by $2,039,804.00 for a total cost of 4,374,004.00.
In 2016 Foulds said, “Meters are not only necessary to accurately determine system loss, but will also help to accurately predict system demand over time.” Foulds added “By metering water usage the town can easily align usage and fees for more improved financial and overall management of the system.”
At the November Town Council Meeting, Cirbee suggested there should be at least 6 months to a year of metered usage before making a determination of rates.
Mayor Eddie Blunt said that two quarters would be billed at the current quarterly rates and at that time customers would see their 'gallons used' on the bill, giving them time to determine what their average usage is and what measures they will need to take if any to cut back.
Cirbee asked, “Have we determined what we will charge for extra usage and what the minimum gallons are?”
Robertson said 5000 gallons was the minimum set for home use and businesses will be allowed more. “When we looked at 5000 gallons that took care of a family of 4.” Robertson gave no specific numbers for charging for additional gallons over the minimum amount of 5000, but did comment it was minimal.
The town has been working to ensure that all homes and businesses have new meters which will be equipped to be read by radio. Water shut off and turn on will now require a call to public works to have the proper tool.
Residents are encouraged to ensure their homes have an emergency cut off valve that they or plumbers can access, however in the case of a water related emergency residents may call police dispatch at 804-493-8066 who will contact public works 24 hours a day to respond and turn water off in an emergency.
Once all water meters are in place the system for metering usage will be turned on. Water usage will continue to be billed for 6 months at the existing quarterly rate according to Mayor Eddie Blunt. During these two quarters residents will receive information telling them their usage by gallons. This will allow residents to prepare to make improvements to their plumbing fixtures or find other ways to cut back on their usage if pricing is a concern for them.
The town will hold several public meetings, send letters and put out town alerts to help educate the public on rate determinations as they are made, before metered billing begins.
Colonial Beach News