Water meter project off and running

PORT HOOD: New water meters are coming to Inverness County and the municipality’s director of finance says the innovation is going to mean better service for residents and more accurate billing for the county.

“In the last couple of years, staff identified the need for increased efficiencies when dealing with water customers,” said Tanya Tibbo, who presented on the matter during the regular council meeting on August 1.

“We were missing water meter readings because, in some cases, we were unable to get them. Either the meters didn’t work, there was no meter, or the meters were too old. We were probably not billing close to half of our water utility customers, so we needed a water meter replacement project for all our customers.”

Council approved $750,000 in its 2018-19 capital budget for the project, and Neptune Technology Group was awarded the contract in November of 2019. The new radio-frequency read meters will allow staff to read meters in a day or two. With the old system, such a project would have taken a month.

Leaks can be identified quicker with the new meters, and billing will be far more accurate.

An introductory letter was sent out in the last round of water bills, letting residents know the project was rolling along. Digital posts were made as well to let people know of the water meter change-over.

Inverness and Port Hood are the first communities to have appointments and instillations made. Cheticamp will follow (this week), then Judique will get similar treatment in late August. Mabou and Whycocomagh are after that, as well as Port Hastings. By October, all instillations should be complete.

Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier asked how Neptune Technology Group and municipal staff would locate those who aren’t yet paying. He also asked about the process of identifying old and inactive accounts.

In some cases, Tibbo said it might be necessary to go street-by-street, lining up property identification numbers with properties.

“We’re trying to be as thorough as we can, but Neptune is really good at bringing information back and saying this person isn’t on your list,” Tibbo said. “Once we get the project done, we’ll be able to make sure we have accurate information.”

Councillor John Dowling asked about Neptune’s ability to have bilingual staff on the ground, and Tibbo said the need to have bilingual translators is addressed when the appointments are made.

“If they need a bilingual translator there, we’ll have one there for that appointment,” she said.

In general, Tibbo said residents seem to be keen on the change-over.

“People are excited about this,” she said. “They’re coming in, making appointments and calling. They are pretty excited their meters are being replaced.”