BERLIN – Town staff are reminding residents to clear landscaping away from their water meters as the replacement process begins.
Last week, crews began removing existing water meters in Berlin to replace them with smart meters. Though work is underway in the Decatur Farms neighborhood now, meters throughout the entire will be replaced in the coming months.
“If you have flowers, mulch, trees, on top of your meter, they will tear it out,” said Jamey Latchum, the town’s water resources director. “They have to get in there and replace it. I have preached it numerous times. Please clear your meters.”
The town has been working toward smart meters since 2021, when a water rate study revealed that the town was not receiving revenue for about 25% of the water it produced. Much of that loss, according to the study, is tied to inaccurate meters. Staff at the time said they were aware of at least 400 inaccurate meters.
In the wake of that report, town officials agreed to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to replace existing meters with smart meters, which are expected to lead to more accurate billing and help residents identify leaks earlier.
In Monday’s town council meeting, Latchum, showing a map of the town broken into seven colored zones, said work was currently underway in the green zone, essentially the Decatur Farms area.
From there, crews will probably move across Route 113 to the orange and yellow zones.
“We’re still trying to develop our best plan of attack,” he said.
He added that crews started in Decatur Farms because work should be simpler there, as it was one of the newer sections of town.
“He’s knocking out 10-15 meters a day,” Latchum said, explaining that it was only taking 10-15 minutes per meter in Decatur Farms. “When we get in some of the older parts of town… it might be 20-25 minutes.”
Mayor Zack Tyndall said residents should understand that while they were getting new meters there would be no change in the billing structure.
“The only thing you may experience is if you have an older meter, it may not be capturing all of the use,” he said, adding that if residents were concerned with a bill they could ask for a re-read of their meter.
Latchum said most of the town’s meters should be changed out within 90 days but that the process was complicated by the fact that some of the replacements, such as those at the hospital and nursing home, had to be done in the middle of the night.
“There’s a lot of planning on our end that we’ve been working on,” Latchum said. “There will be a lot more stuff coming out. Hopefully we can get moving fairly quick and get this changed out.”
He urged residents to clear off their meters so they wouldn’t be disappointed when crews came through.
“This is not just related to meter replacement,” Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said. “By town code you are to leave your meter unobstructed.”
Council members encouraged staff to add that to advertisements about the meter replacement process. They said they’d advised residents of the issue and would continue to do so.
Latchum said that once they were installed, the new meters would have GPS.
“So if we have a leak we should be able to take our cellphone and iPads and get right to it,” he said.