Sheffield is getting new water meter, upgrading water tower

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SHEFFIELD — Sheffield residents are getting new water meters this summer.

The new digital meters will provide accurate water readings and identify water leaks much quicker than the current meters.

The new meters will replace 30-year-old meters in the village, where about 25 percent are inoperable, which means these homes are given an estimated average water usage bill each month. It’s not an accurate way to bill residents, but it’s the only way the village can handle the issue at the moment with the old water meters in place.

The old meters have caused the village to loose out on thousands of dollars over the years from water usage going unaccounted for. Plus, the old meters require village employees to read each meter individually, which takes time. The new meters will be able to be read digitally from the street.

This is a project village president Mary Lanham has been committed to getting complete since taking lead over the village last year.

Sheffield was awarded a loan worth $479,551 from the Environmental Project Agency to complete the water meter project. Of that amount, $287,731 will be forgiven and the rest, the village will pay back at a 1.5% interest rate over 20 years.

“It’s a great deal for our little village here,” Lanham said. “With the new meters, everyone will be paying exactly what they’re using.”

The village has roughly 450 water meters.

Lanham has warned residents that once the new water meters are online, they may notice an increase in their water bill, but this is attributed to the more accurate readings of the new meters.

Along with new water meters, the village’s water tower tank will be cleaned and recoated.

The village was approved for the EPA loan program last summer. The village had originally applied for the program in January 2018, but was denied. When the village was in the process of reapplying for the program last year, it discovered that additional funds had been leftover from the January 2018 projects and that the state went ahead and approved Sheffield for its projects.

Bidding for the project was postponed this spring due to COVID, but the village eventually was able to do so and Operations Services Inc. of North Carolina came back as the only bidder for the water meters.

The village approved them for the project, and the company subcontracted the job to Tim Ries, who just happens to be a resident and owner of the village’s local hardware store.

“I was really happy to have that. He’s owned a business here in town for 37 years, Sheffield Hardware, and pretty much everybody in town knows Tim,” Lanham said. “I felt we were really lucky in that regard.”

Plus, Ries has got a lot of institutional knowledge of the homes in Sheffield, Lanham added.

As for the water tower project, the village had intended to award its bid to Central Tank Coatings, which has an Elgin address, but is based mostly in Iowa. Because of COVID and the uptick in unemployment numbers, the village was forced to accept in-state bids only for this project, which meant the next lowest bidder, Putnam County Painting of Mark, had to be approved. Their bid price came it at $183,650.

This project has been pushed to fall.

Lanham said to be considered for the EPA grant, the village had to approve raising water rates to show that is would be able to afford paying back the 20-year loan. The village approved raising rates in December 2018. The village board decided to forgo raising rates this year due to COVID, however a 3% increase is expected to be approved next year.

The village is also working on applying for a Community Block Development Grant that could award up to $550,000 of “free money,” meaning the village wouldn’t have to pay it back.

If awarded, the grant would help fund public infrastructure improvements that would improve underground water flow in the village and prevent water backups and basement floodings during heavy rain storms.