Rhinebeck village seeks water meter at town highway garage

Millions of gallons unaccounted for, village looking for answers

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The Village of Rhinebeck has convinced town officials to install a water meter at the town highway garage as part of the village’s efforts to track down the loss of millions of gallons each month.

The garage currently uses water unmetered and free of charge.

The village sends quarterly bills to homeowners who are connected to the village water system based on the amount of water they use in their homes. Each house hooked up to the water system has a meter.

But Reardon told The Observer last week that he is concerned about how much money the village water system is losing. He said the state comptroller’s office performed a risk assessment of the village’s water usage and echoed his concerns.

“You have x amount of water, and you bill for y,” Reardon said. “We’re running about a 20 percent loss.”
Reardon said the water system works like a non-profit agency and seeks only to cover its expenses.

Asked about the 20 percent gap between water used and water billed for, Reardon said, “We haven’t put a dollar figure on [it].” But he calculated that the system churns out about 12 million gallons a month at a current cost of $5.60 per thousand gallons. By those figures, roughly 2.4 million gallons of water — and about $13,440 – goes down the drain without being paid for each month. That’s roughly $161,280 lost each year.

Reardon said much of this could be accounted for by inevitable upkeep needs, like having to flush pipes for sediment build-up. But the mayor said that 6 percent is an average loss rate for municipal water systems, meaning Rhinebeck has a problem.

Concerns over the amount of water lost prompted village leadership last fall to propose the installation of a meter at the garage.

According to Reardon, village code specifies that every user of village water must be metered. He said he thought there must have been a verbal agreement at some point that the town highway garage would not be metered and, therefore, not charged for water usage.

The garage, located on Route 308 just outside the village, has been using water for free probably since it was built decades ago, Reardon added. He said the continued harsh budgetary climate has made it necessary to cover all bases, including metering a town agency.

Reardon did not want to speculate how much water the workers at the garage could be using, insisting it may not necessarily be a problematic area.

“I would reserve judgment,” he said. “It may be insignificant; we don’t know.”

Reardon said installing a meter at the garage, which the town has agreed to pay for, is the first in an exploratory phase of an effort to trim expenses by addressing areas not currently metered.

“We’re trying to identify these locations and take proper steps from there,” Reardon said. “Trying to increase our efficiencies is what we’re doing.”

Reardon and Town Supervisor Tom Traudt both said the meter will probably be installed in the garage this spring at a cost of around $600 to $800.

The mayor’s insistence on the installation met some opposition. Joseph Gelb, a Rhinebeck town board member, asked Reardon in December to pen a letter assuring that the village would never charge the town for water at the highway garage.

Reardon told the town board at two meetings that he could not make such a promise.

“Everybody needs to be on a level playing field,” he told The Observer. “If it’s a concernable amount of water, we have to consider billing to cover our expenses.”

Gelb did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

Traudt said he finds the metering of the garage to be “absolutely reasonable.”

“They, of course, have an amount of water they can’t account for,” Traudt told The Observer. “They’re just trying to get a grip on where the [water] losses are coming from.”

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