Water Meter Method Could Go to a Taxpayer Survey

Barnegat Light in Early Stages of Determining Details

Barnegat Light — Digitally read water meters are still coming to Barnegat Light; the question is how they will be installed. The borough is weighing taking charge of the project versus giving homeowners two years to oversee their own plumber for the process.

Voters will be given a chance to lend their opinion in an upcoming survey.

Borough Councilwoman Mary Ellen Foley, who chairs the water and sewer committee, said she is working with the taxpayers association directors on a question that can be sent out to taxpayers in a survey.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said of the survey. “We have an iteration that is being reviewed currently, and that will be coming out to people shortly.”

Foley clarified that the installation method will be the same for everyone, once the decision is reached.

“It won’t be that some people can choose to do it themselves, and some people can choose to have it done by the borough,” she said. “It’s either going to be all done by the borough, or everybody does it on their own.”

One option is that if the borough did not bid the project out, “homeowners would be responsible for hiring the plumber. We would give the homeowners two years to do that process,” Foley said.

The topic came up at the last council meeting when resident John Tennyson wanted to make sure the borough was paying for the installation either way. Foley answered yes.

“For the past four years this governing body has said publicly that the borough was going to pay for the installation of water meters. The only caveat to that was that if you had pavers that covered a meter, you were responsible for removing the pavers,” said Tennyson, who is past president of the taxpayers association.

“That is still the case,” Foley answered.

“If we choose to have a contractor come in and bid the job, as most people should be aware, we have to take the lowest (responsible) bid, and they will come in at their convenience. … We provide the meter, the pit, and charge no permitting fees, and that contractor will come in and replace the meters and the pits,” she said.

“We do have a concern that a general contractor might not take as much care as your own plumber might take,” Foley added. “From my point of view, a question is do you want control of your property or do you want a stranger digging up your yard?”

The cost of the project under various options is another issue under consideration. Foley said the cost estimate has risen in the past three years to as much as $4 million to $5 million if the project were bid to a contractor. It would be bonded through the Environmental Trust Foundation. However, the cost would be lower in the option of homeowners using their own plumber, she said.

Tennyson asked about a third option: If the borough hired several people to do the replacement, would that be less expensive?

“That is still a possibility,” Foley said. “It’s not set in stone yet either way. Give me another month or so and I can comment further on that.”

— Maria Scandale

Reposted from The Sandpaper