TICONDEROGA - The Ticonderoga town board has agreed to accept a $4.17 million grant to install water meters throughout the community.
But there is one condition - that there be no conditions.
Trustees voted after a 2 1/2-hour public hearing Sept. 10 to accept the money and install the meters. The hearing attracted about 50 people, split evenly between those wanting meters and those opposing them.
People arguing in favor of meters claimed the meters would create fairness by charging people only for the water they actually use and promote conservation.
Opponents of meters expressed fears of higher water costs.
Town board members expressed their belief water meters are crucial to hopes for future grants that will be needed for the $30 million Gooseneck Pond reservoir project.
"This is going to be critical to the town's future," Supervisor Bob Dedrick said. "The state and EPA (federal Environmental Protection Agency) want every community to have water meters as a way of conserving water. They aren't going to be giving grants to communities that aren't metered."
Dedrick said he was notified last month by the state that Ti had been awarded the grant money through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus money will pay for the installation of water meters at all residential and commercial locations in the community.
The grant expires Dec. 31, which means the Ti town board must accept the money and have a contract in place for the project by the end of the year.
After listening to emotional debate on both sides of the issue, the board voted to accept the grant to install the water meters without a definite plan for using them.
Dedrick said the board wants to install the meters and gather data for a year or more. Once data has been collected, each Ti water customer will be notified of their water usage and a billing procedure established.
If the state tells Ti it must start using the meters to bill immediately upon installation, the board agreed to reject the grant and the meter proposal.
"We're concerned that there be no demands on us," Dedrick said. "We'll only use the meters for billing when we're ready, when people know what to expect."
Water customers in Ti now pay $322 a year. If meters are installed, Dedrick explained, eventually a per gallon rate will be established and customers will be billed only for the water they actually use.
Dedrick stressed the meters will not cost the town any money and, in fact, could save money.
The meters would be read electronically and would interface with the town's computerized billing system. The meters would also alert the town water department to any undetected leaks in the system.
Dedrick said the award is considered a "green grant."
"The intent of the program is to conserve 10-30 percent water," the supervisor said. "The feeling is that it'll not only save on water consumption, but there will be fewer chemicals used in treating water and less wastewater at the sewage treatment plant."