Refuse new water meter? Expect $500 fine, shut-off

By Seth Schmidt

The City of Tracy will be ramping up efforts to get 100% of its utility customers hooked up with new “radio read” water meters.
Residents who refuse to allow the meters to be installed will face a $500 fine and an eventual shut-off of water service, according to an enforcement plan recommended by City Administrator Kris Ambuehl and approved by the city council Monday night.
The Tracy Public Works Dept. has been installing new water meters for more than 10 years. A city employee in a truck can read the meters remotely. The newer-style meters are more accurate than old units, save labor for city staff, and can help detect leaks in the system.
Ambuehl and Public Works Director Shane Daniels told the council that continual efforts have been made to contact the remaining 54 customers who don’t have the new meters. However, many of customers are not responding to repeated city requests to grant basement access for new meter installation, or are simply refusing the new meter, they said.
Ambuehl felt the city needs a tougher approach.
“The $500 fine will get the attention of 90% of the people on this list,” he said.
The procedure that Ambuehl recommended, and the council approved, is:
1) Send a 90-day notice-warning letter, requiring access to change out the water meter. After 90 days, a $500 fine would be imposed on any utility customer not granting access for the new meter installation.
2) A certified letter to those who don’t respond to the first letter within 60 days would be sent, with a reminder to allow access for the new water meter installation, or face a $500 fine.
3) Any customer who did not allow a water meter installation within 120 days would have water service shut off.
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Councilman Tony Peterson felt that the uncooperative customers with the older meters were “holding the entire community back” because data gathered by the meters “affects financing” for future infrastructure projects. He said that the threat of water shut-off would definitely compel people to act.
Daniels said that the radio-read meters allow the city to track water usage exactly. If a user sends in their own meter reading, the city has no way of knowing whether the usage is being under-reported, he said.
“We are not saying people aren’t paying their bill,” Daniels said. But he said that there is always the possibility of someone abusing the system by writing down one unit of water when they really used two.
The new enforcement policy was approved unanimously. Council member Jeri Schons said that it would be important for the city to be consistent in applying the policy.