Chester board considers water meter upgrade, adopts animal ordinance

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Meeting as the town’s Water Commissioners last Wednesday, the Chester Select Board heard a presentation on new metering technology that Superintendent Jeff Holden says will upgrade a system that is outdated and near the end of its useful life.

The commission is considering a $95,000 upgrade for software and equipment and will likely vote on it at its August meeting.

A cellular connected water meter depicted on the Stiles Company’s website

Holden began the discussion with a little history, saying that, in the past, reading the water meters for the town’s nearly 600 water customers would take two weeks. That improved 20 years ago when radio reading technology was installed. But today, those readers are no longer supported by current technology.

Tim Clark of the Stiles Co., a water meter technology company out of Massachusetts, explained that installing a cellular unit onto the existing meters would allow the town to get water usage information on a computer at the town office. He said that using cell service, the unit would send information to the town office four times a day and would alert the town if someone’s water was running for more than 24 hours, which would indicate a leak. Clark noted that currently the meters are checked every three months for quarterly billing and, in the interim, a leak could do a lot of damage.

Holden said he likes continuing to use the old mechanical meter bodies because they are rugged and easily rebuilt.

Clark said that the town’s water district gets 100 percent cell coverage so there should be not problem with collecting the information.

Water commission members listen as Tim Clark of Stiles, left, answers questions about the cellular connection to the water meters. Images courtesy of SAPA TV unless otherwise noted.

While Chester resident Evan Parks said he doesn’t get a good cell signal in the basement of his home on Main Street, Clark said the transfer of information is “machine to machine,” and is only a tiny bit of data so it doesn’t need the bandwidth of a cell phone.

The cellular units are powered by a low voltage lithium ion battery with a 20-year life.

Town Manager Julie Hance said in addition to streamlining the reading of meters, the upgrade has cash flow benefits. She told the commission that billing commercial accounts monthly, instead of quarterly, will help the town and make managing water payments easier on large-scale users. Residential users would continue to be billed quarterly.

While several members asked questions about the cost and whether the change could be phased in, commission chair Arne Jonynas spoke of getting ahead of problems. “If we do nothing and the system goes down, meters would have to be read manually,” said Jonynas.

The upgrade will require new software for the computers in the town office and the installation of the cell units. The town got a quote of $95,000 for the software and equipment, which the commission will take up at its August meeting. The Water and Sewer departments are operated separately from the town’s general fund and are supported by fees for connections and usage.

Nuisance animal ordinance unanimously adopted

The Chester Select Board voted unanimously to adopt a proposed Nuisance Animal Ordinance that it has been working on for several months following complaints from residents of the Potash Brook Road area. The ordinance addresses issues such as noise, animals who are off their owners property and not under the control of the owner and the damage those animals can do to the property of neighbors. This does not include dogs however, because there is also an existing dog ordinance.

Prior to the vote, the board voted heard from Evan Parks regarding the use of shock collars as means for controlling animals who are “at large” in town. Parks said that the collars “punish” animals and are banned in some countries. He asked that the board not allow those as a means of control. The ordinance neither allows or disallows the collars and board members did not see it as a major problem with it.

Jen Gagliardi, who lives in the Andover Road-Potash Brook Road area, thanked the board for taking the complaints of goats and other animals roaming on neighbors’s properties. She also thanked the Chester Police for their response to her calls and said she has tried to limit them lest she becomes a “nuisance citizen.”

An example of a design for signs

The ordinance will take effect within 60 days of the vote.

Emergency notifications, wayfinding signs

Hance announced that Catalis, an emergency notification service that the town has contracted with, is up and running. Residents can now can sign up to receive phone calls, emails and texts from the town during an emergency. Noting that the system is very flexible, Hance said that notifications can be targeted to a specific part of the town with an emergency or  to a person’s specific health needs, in which users can identify themselves as “at risk” and the town will be able to check in on them during emergencies.

Included in this year’s property tax bills will be a flyer on how to sign up for the service. Residents can also sign up now through a QR code link, directly with a web address provided on the flyer or by calling Town Hall for help with signing up.

To view the Catalis flyer and sign up click here.

Hance also told the board that the wayfinding signs are finally going up around town. These came out of a village center master plan exercise that took place back 2016 and 2017. The idea was to let people know about the area around the Green, which many bypass when traveling 103 north and south through Chester.

 

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  1. Arlene Mutschler says:

    MY water meter went bad and for a whole year, my water usage was high. When I complained I was told I MUST have a leak. Jim came an investigated. Siad it was my toilets. I PAID to have a plumber come and look and they were FINE. So Jim replaced my meter (which I said was probably bad) and the billed went to half the usage. And I was given a meager $15 credit. When I inquired about the previous billings? I was told some would get back to me…I’m still waiting. WHY am I telling you this??? Because, I dread the installation of yet another system and the 2yr learning curve that it will require. And be honest? a monthly billing? Will we still be billed the ‘fee” on each bill? Another way to garner more money. Yes I supppose if a leak occurred in a vacant or part timehouse, yes it might be notice sooner? But I had a bad meter for a year or more and the excessive water used was not noticed? jim,? YOu do a greatjob. Thank you.

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