By Sue Botos
Residents seem to be going with the flow as the Cleveland Water Department is gradually installing automated meters throughout the area.
Mayor Pam Bobst announced at a recent City Council meeting that 77,000 meters (AMRs) have been installed in the Cleveland area, including 1,849 in Rocky River. She added that there have been a minimum of customer complaints and that Cleveland Water officials hope to have the project 90 to 95 percent complete by 2015.
Bobst said that 97 installers place about 750 units per day with the goal of 100,000 area installations by June.
“Once the meters are in place, there will be an improved information system,” said Bobst, who gave a timeline for 2013. Starting with the third billing quarter this year, customer account information will be available on a redesigned website. During the fourth quarter this year, online water usage information will be available, and accessible to by those with AMRs. In addition, residents who sign up and submit their contact information will receive leak notification and online bill paying will also be available.
The new meters are battery powered, with a 20-year life expectancy and will provide several readings per day. Once installed, the system will flag usage and any unusual hours of use, because this often indicates a leak. Residents will then be notified. City officials estimate that about 17 percent of city meters are not functioning properly.
Homeowners can also look at their account at any time to gauge their usage.
Bobst said that information regarding the installations and requests for placement have been mailed to 4,792 accounts within the city, many of which are in the western-most portion. Those who do not respond to the mailings will receive a phone call from the Cleveland Water Department. If there is still no response from the homeowner, a red tag will be placed on the door.
Installation of the AMRs began almost one year ago, and Rocky River is one of the first communities to be participating in the program. Residents currently with outdoor meters will not be disturbed by the installations. Those with indoor meters must allow installers into their homes.
City officials have cautioned residents that under the new system, water usage will be current on an hourly basis so homeowners can monitor and modify their usage. Bobst cautioned that when the new meters are installed, there could be a sudden change in residents’ bills, either with a larger outstanding balance, or a smaller amount than in the past.
Law director Andy Bemer that the new system will require a “learning curve” during what he referred to as a “stabilization period.”
Bobst commented, “One concern is that the bills won’t look the same.” She said that Jason Woods, the legal council for the Cleveland Water Department, and interim commissioner Alex Margevicius and other representatives will work with residents, particularly in cases where there is an extreme difference.
Council president Jim Moran suggested that, with the help of the senior center, the city may be able to assist those, especially seniors, who need help resolving issues.
Bemer noted with interest that with the 77,000 installations throughout the area, there were only 10 disputes with homeowners. He added that in the future, sewer and water bills for municipalities in the Northeast Sewer District will be separate and not one bill as they are now. Bobst added that Rocky River’s sewer and water bills have always been separate because the city is not a part of that system.