Water Meter Replacement Project

Background

The City of Elkins water utility bills its customers based on actual usage as measured by meters installed where water service lines enter each customer’s property. Originally, these meters were read manually by city workers. Around 2005, the city installed remote-read water meters, which transmit usage data for collection using a receiving device in a Water Department vehicle as it drives by each of the city’s approximately 4,400 water customer locations.

This first generation of remote-read water meters installed in Elkins is now past warranty expiration. About 1,300 have already failed, necessitating estimated readings for these customers. (Read more about how estimated readings work here. Find FAQs about changes you might notice on your water bill after meter replacement here.)

During 2021, a City of Elkins contractor, Newman Plumbing, will replace all city water customers’ remote-read meters with new ones made by Badger Meters.

Frequently Asked Questions About Water Meter Replacement 

Below are answers to questions you might have about this project.

How much will this project cost?

This project will cost about $1.5 million.

How is this project being paid for, and will it affect water rates?

The opportunity to execute this project arose as a result of aggressive costsaving measures during the 2016 water plant construction project, which spared the $1.5 million needed for this project. As a result, this project will not result in any increase in water rates.

How will this project affect water customers?

The impact of the water-meter replacement project, which must be completed by September, is projected by the contractor to be minor for most customers, involving only about 15 minutes’ disruption of water service per meter. Once the meters are replaced, customers who have been receiving estimated readings (i.e., as indicated by an “E” next to the usage amounts on their water bills) may notice changes in their billed amounts. Any changes in billed amounts would be the result of more accurate metering and would not indicate any changes in the rate charged. Again, this project will not affect water rates.

Who will be doing this work? Will they need to come inside my house?

A company called Newman Plumbing will be performing this work. There should not be any need for Newman Plumbing to access the inside of any homes or other buildings in the course of this project. In the case of any exceptions, property owners and/or occupants will be contacted by City of Elkins personnel, who wear uniforms and carry official city photo identification cards.

If you have any questions or concerns about the legitimacy of anyone claiming to be involved with this project, please contact the City of Elkins Operations Department: 304-636-1414, Ext. 1437. In an emergency, call 911.

FAQs Concerning Water Bills, Bill Estimation, and Post-Replacement Billing Changes

When the “old” meters stopped transmitting, how was my usage being measured?

When meters stop transmitting, City of Elkins water bills are based on estimated readings. Estimated readings are the average of the most recent 12 months’ bills.

My bill says I use zero gallons of water, but I know I use water. Doesn’t this mean my meter doesn’t work? Isn’t it illegal to bill me if my meter doesn’t work?

Even if you were using no water at all, city council’s rate ordinance imposes a minimum charge. If you are receiving water from the city, you are required to pay at least the minimum charge. Not knowing what your current reading is, the worst-case scenario is that you are simply being charged, accurately, for using less than 2,000 gallons a billing period. The best-case scenario is that you are being undercharged. Keep in mind that when the new meters go in, you will be charged based on your actual usage each month. The city does not recapture the entire underbilled amount.

What is the minimum charge for water in Elkins?

Even when customers use zero gallons of water in a given period, they must still pay a minimum charge stipulated in the rate ordinance adopted by city council. This minimum varies according to line/meter size and ranges from $30.50/billing period for a 5/8-inch meter to $2,440 per billing period for an 8-inch meter. These minimums are also charged to any customer using less than 2,000 gallons per billing period.

Why does my bill show two meter readings?

We are currently replacing all city water meters because their remote-read transmitters are failing. When we switch out a meter, we are required to show it on your bill. The larger meter reading you see on your bill is the final reading from your old meter, and the smaller one is the first reading from your new meter. To calculate your bill after a new water meter has been installed, last month’s total on the old meter is subtracted from this month’s total on the old meter. This difference is added to the amount shown for the new meter, and that is the basis of your bill. Next month’s charged amount will be based entirely on the readings from the new meter.

If I was being under-billed during a period of estimation, does the city attempt to recapture the whole under-billed amount?

No. The number of unpaid-for gallons is divided by the number of months in the estimation period, and the customer is only charged for one month’s worth of the previously unbilled gallons.

Why do I have such a large bill all of a sudden?

Customers who were receiving estimated bills might see increases once their meter has been replaced and their actual usage is once again being received by the city’s Utility Billing department.

When water bills increase after meter replacement, the usual reason is that water usage was previously being estimated, and it rose during the period of estimation. Such increases could result from the household adding new members or appliances. It could also result from undetected leaks that developed during the period of estimation.

In these cases, the increased charges do not result from recapturing the entire under-billed amount, which the city does not do. Instead, with the new meters in place, accounts that were being estimated are now being billed based on actual usage data each period. Accounts whose usage increased during the period of estimation will therefore see higher bills going forward.

If you have questions or concerns about a larger-than-expected bill, please call Utility Billing.

Is there a limit as to how long you can estimate a water bill?

The W. Va. Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates water and other utilities in this state, does not specify how long utilities may use estimated readings.

Is the PSC aware of these circumstances?

We have briefed the PSC about our current situation and the steps we are taking. Everything we are doing is in full compliance with PSC rules and regulations.

Who should I contact with additional questions or with concerns about this project and how it will affect me or my property?

Operations Administrative Assistant: Shanna Poe
Phone: 304-636-1414, Ext. 1437
Fax: 304-635-7132
spoe@cityofelkinswv.com 
401 Davis Avenue, Elkins, WV 26241

Operations Assistant: Melody Himes
mhimes@cityofelkinswv.com
Phone: 304-636-1414, Ext. 1433

Who should I contact with additional questions or with concerns about my water usage and bill?

Utility Billing Manager
Carolyn Dolly
cdolly@cityofelkinswv.com
Phone: (304) 636-1414, ext. 1720
401 Davis Avenue, Elkins, WV, 26241

Utility Billing Clerk
Dan Stemple, Utility Billing Clerk
dstemple@cityofelkinswv.com
Phone: (304) 636-1414, ext. 1715
401 Davis Avenue, Elkins, WV, 26241

To stay up to date:

To stay current on information about these and other projects, as well as city news and safety alerts, please follow City of Elkins on one or more of the following communication channels:

 

 

 

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