Metro, Politics, Newton

Newton Public Facilities Committee Allocates Over $16 Million to Fund New Water Meters

The Newton Public Facilities Committee, composed of city councilors, met on Wednesday to discuss a recent proposal by the city to replace all of its water meters. The committee amended and passed a motion to approve $16.55 million dollars allocated to the water meters project.

 Mayor Ruthanne Fuller called on the council to consider the matter in a Feb. 14 letter.

“The requested funding will provide for new meters and endpoints for all residential properties, installation of these meters and endpoints, a software and billing interface including a customer portal, training, and associated meter reading equipment,” Fuller wrote.

The committee first discussed the proposal at an April 4 meeting. At Wednesday’s meeting, members of the facilities committee addressed lingering questions surrounding the system’s replacement. 

Jim McGonagle, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Works, introduced the item and discussed it with the counselors. The city last replaced the approximately 29,000 water meters located around Newton in 2009, McGonagle said.

Transponders—the radio systems that communicate issues in the meters—in the current system are malfunctioning, according to McGonagle. But the meters themselves still work correctly, he said. 

“So we’re proposing a full meter replacement, as we discussed on Monday night a little more in depth, which includes a customer portal which will allow customers to view their usages, receive alerts, [and] things of that nature,” McGonagle said. 

Alison Leary, councilor-at-large for Ward 1, asked about how the changes would be communicated to Newton residents. The city will create a dedicated webpage for the project and make a phone line available for residents to express any questions or concerns, according to McGonagle. 

The City will submit contracts for the installation of the meters to companies for bids, according to McGonagle. He said installation of the meters would begin in the summer of 2022 with a goal of completion by December of 2023. 

Ward 3 Councilor-at-Large Andrea Kelley said the new meters seemed necessary, but she expressed some concerns that the city would not learn from past errors.

“I’m trying for us all to learn from past experience and figure out how we don’t repeat mistakes or errors or oversights or whatever happened in the past,” Kelley said. 

Despite the issues with the current water meters, McGonagle said the city would have had to consider replacing the meters no matter what because the U.S Environmental Protection Agency recommends replacing water meters every 10 years. The new meters would last approximately 12 years, according to McGonagle.

McGonagle said the city’s current supply of meters—obtained from overseas providers—faced issues. This time around, he said the city would not run into the same issue, as the distributor is located in Middlesex County.

”We met with their representatives, and they assured us that supply won’t be an issue with this,” McGonagle said.

April 10, 2022