BY CALEB ALEXANDER
With an initial study cost of $192,000 budgeted thus far, the Village of New Baden is looking into the possible conversion to an automated water meter reading program that was discussed at its board of trustees meeting on January 19 in response to an inquiry from a resident in favor of the idea. The final cost could be over $1,000,000 and $20,000 a year.
James Obernear, who said he is a new resident in New Baden, brought this subject up when it was time for citizens to address the board during this meeting.
Taylor Zurliene, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Christy Picard, said this subject was discussed at a recent meeting of the board’s public works committee but nothing definite has been decided yet.
He added that the village is implementing a study to see if the height of the water tower is sufficient for a system like the one being considered to reach out into all areas where New Baden customers for this service are located.
Village Trustee Bob Oster, chairman of the public works committee, went into more detail in response to Obernear, explaining that there has been some talk about replacing older water meters in town but at this time, priority is being given to the study to see how far the water tower’s reach would be if such a system is put into place.
When that study is completed, Oster said, the results will be shared with the village board, tentatively at a meeting in February, most likely the second of the two, on Tuesday, the 16th. That meeting is traditionally moved from the third Monday of the month because of the observance of President’s Day on February 15.
The board is not formally discussing anything about this, Oster said, while awaiting the results of that study. In reference to the $192,000 he said was budgeted, Oster stated, “We don’t know how much of that we’re going to spend the first year. We’re trying to find that out. When we find that out, then we’ll report it to the board.”
Obernear, who was listening to the meeting remotely because that is the way citizens can observe and make comments or ask questions due to restrictions connected with the coronavirus pandemic, said he thought the automated water meters were great, as they were utilized in Peoria where he used to live before coming to New Baden. He is a retired United States Air Force captain and added that the city where he resided previously, which is the seventh largest in Illinois, saved $500,000 a year by changing over to automated meters.
“I’m excited to see you’re looking into that,” Obernear told the board.
Village Administrator Erika Kennett said the “propagation study” referred to by Oster should take about four or five weeks to complete. She said its purpose was “to make sure we have the bandwidth to reach all the meters.”
Village Trustee Randy Linthicum, in response to what Obernear said about Peoria, commented, “I will tell you it’s a different situation in a small town like this and the cost will be substantially more than $192,000 so I’m glad you’re interested in it and I hope you pay attention to the whole process.”
Oster followed that up by saying the total cost of the project “is not $192,000. It depends on how many meters we put in” and the steps taken in conjunction with that.