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Water and sewer billing switchover begins in September

Date: 8/27/2012

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW — Nearly Longmeadow's practices for water and sewer billing are about to undergo some changes.

Utilizing a new $1.3 million electronic system that will allow the Department of Public Works (DPW) to read all of the town's meters in a matter of a day or two, the town will commence use of a new system that will put all residents and businesses on the same billing cycle.

Under the previous billing system, the town was split into six segments, referred to as "cycles." Each cycle was billed bi-annually, however, the months in which the meters were read and bills sent out varied from cycle to cycle.

Finance Director and Interim Town Manager Paul Pasterczyk explained that the measure, which was approved by the Select Board on July 30, would accomplish two goals for the town.

"One of the goals was to be able to read everyone near simultaneously, meaning it may take us a day or two to go through the whole town, but everyone's meter is going to be read in the next day or two," he said. "The other goal was to fix the issue of billing at the rate at the time of billing. We are now going to bill only at the rate at the time of consumption."

Under the new system, the first set of bills will be sent out on Sept. 4.

"The DPW went out earlier this month and read the whole town simultaneously," Pasterczyk said, adding that all but approximately 10 properties in town were equipped with the new metering system.

The next meter reading for all properties will take place in February.

Pasterczyk also added that in the first billing cycle through the new system, there will be variations in the amount charged to consumers based on which cycle they are located due to the staggered billing periods used by the previous system.

Normally, he explained, customers in Cycle 1 would be billed for their consumption from January through June, but under the new system billed from January until that meter was read in August. Cycle 2 will be billed from February to August, Cycle 3 from March to August, Cycle 4 from April to August, Cycle 5 from May to August and Cycle 6 from June to August.

"There is an anomaly," Pasterczyk said. "Some people are going to get very small bills. What normally would have been a six-month consumption cycle is now anywhere from seven [months] down to two."

The varying times through the first billing period could result in a slight decrease in revenue from water and sewer collections.

"We are going to have a small loss of potential revenue because we are going to lose billing months," Pasterczyk said. "That is known and is not a major issue. It's the one-year anomaly and won't affect billing beyond that."

Being conscious of the town's quarterly real estate tax billing system, the Select Board was very specific in the timing of water and sewer bills being sent out, Pasterczyk said.

"We could have simultaneously read the town at any point in time, but we wanted to make sure that we didn't have a due date of these water and sewer bills that was very near to the due dates of the quarterly real estate taxes," he said. "We specifically, as one of the goals, wanted to refrain from having a billing due date of Nov. 1. That was one of the main concerns."

The new billing will be an aid to some cycles in splitting their bills at peak consumption season, Pasterczyk added.

"We have high consumption months in May, June, July, August and September," he said. "This in essence, splits some of those billing periods for a few of the cycles. If you look at Cycle 5, you would have had a bill for consumption from May to October, which would result in huge bills [in peak times] and very low bills [outside of peak times]. This will balance those a little bit."