SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake Board of Trustees approved a local law Dec. 21 that allows for the installation of new water meters at homes throughout the village.
The legislation states that no premises - businesses included - may receive water from the municipal system until a meter is installed.
Meters will be hooked up to water service pipes and - quote - "a radio transmitter reading device is installed in or on the exterior of the building being served."
Trustees passed the law four votes to one. Jeff Branch was opposed to the law for a number of reasons, stating that too many questions were left unanswered.
Branch said he wasn't convinced that water rates wouldn't increase following installation.
"I understand the importance of this," he said. "But I think not knowing how much this will increase water costs - and let's not make any assumptions that it's not - I can't vote yes because I think it's going to go up significantly, just as it did last time meters went in."
Mayor Tom Michael argued that water meters allow the village to generate revenue based on usage. Currently, the village charges a flat rate.
"So a home with two people pays the same as a family with four kids," he said. "Some people will save money, and others will pay their fair share."
During the public hearing that preceded the vote, Molly Hann of Park Avenue said she and her husband were considering purchasing a meter in order to conserve both water and money.
"Then we heard about this grant and thought, well, if the village is getting a grant for this we might as well save ourselves a few hundred dollars and be able to take advantage of this great opportunity," she said. "Right now, we live in a three-bedroom house and we're paying bulk rate for two of us which is kind of stupid of us to be doing. But we figure at this point this law will be passed and we'll do it and it will get taken care of."
The only other resident to speak was Paul Knapp of Jenkins Street. He was opposed to the law, noting first-and-foremost the intrusion onto private property by the village.
"A lot of questions come up with this meter," Knapp said. "You want to pass a local law that says you can cut into my water line that I'm responsible for. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's always been that you maintain from the curb-stop on the meter all the way to your house. And now, part of what I've owned and maintained for 34 years, you want to cut into and insert a meter that you now own and I have no responsibility for."
Another issue that sparked some debate among trustees was the issue of homeowners who traditionally leave their water running during winter months to keep pipes from freezing.
In some cases, residents who winter in the south will leave a faucet running for several months.
Following public hearing, the board passed the local law and passed two subsequent bills for purchase and installation of the water meters.
The first bill authorized the village to purchase meters from E.J. Prescott Inc. at a cost of $387,873. In a previous meeting, the board opted to take the advice of Barton & Loguidice - the village's engineering consultant - and go with Prescott's bid for 2,300 new meters.
All trustees were in favor of the bill except Branch.
The final bill on the evening's docket was for meter installation. Trustees moved to authorize a contract with Troupe Water Services LLC at a cost of $491,432. Branch was opposed, as was John McEneany, who said he couldn't vote for installation until a few more details were hammered out.