Home News Local News Ordinance in works for water meter tampering

Ordinance in works for water meter tampering

City Engineer Louis Najar holds up a piece of rusted connection that goes on the outside of the pipe on the West Gayle Street waterline as he explains why the lines have been breaking at the city of Roswell’s Infrastructure Committee meeting on Monday. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Roswell City Council’s Infrastructure Committee ultimately decided to revise a proposed ordinance with a companion resolution addressing property owners tampering with smart water meters.

The committee also voted on traffic calming and other infrastructure projects were presented at Monday’s meeting.

City Engineer Louis Najar explained that City Manager Joe Neeb wanted the ordinance to spell out the offenses and the companion resolution would have a table of the costs for parts and services. Najar explained the resolution could be changed if prices change.

Bill Morris, community development director, explained the ordinance and companion resolution would be a three-strike process. On the first offense, the property owner would pay installation and replacement costs. The second offense would be the same as the first with a 50 percent additional increase, and for the final offense, the property owner would be cited in Municipal Court. As written in the ordinance’s draft, failure to pay the total bill would result in termination of the water service.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the final offense is comparable to a petty misdemeanor and asked if the language could reflect this. Kintigh also said the proposed ordinance should be revised.

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City councilors Caleb Grant, Juan Oropesa and George Peterson all shared concerns about unjustly penalizing property owners if the meters were destroyed by someone else.

In response to this, City Attorney Aaron Holloman said anyone tampering with a meter would receive a municipal court citation, but would not be responsible for replacing the meter since the property owner is responsible as drafted in the ordinance.

Kevin Dillon, project and facilities director, said if someone was intentionally destroying meters, it would be repeat offenses in multiple locations. Currently, Dillon said the city is facing several occasions of repeat offenders on their own properties. He said one property owner has tampered with his meter on more than four or five occasions.

Councilor Jeanine Corn Best said once the ordinance and companion resolution were potentially approved by full council, it should be included incrementally with the water bill to raise public awareness.

Grant made the motion to table the ordinance and companion resolution for revision by the city’s legal staff, and Best seconded. The vote was unanimous, 4 to 0.

Najar explained the first reading of the ordinance was at Monday’s meeting, and the resolutions as well as the council vote will be in November after being seen by the Legal and Infrastructure committees.

For the whole smart water meter project, Dillon informed the committee that only 1,200 meters are left to complete the installation.

On traffic calming, Najar and the councilors voiced opinions that the city needed an immediate action rather than an elaborate traffic plan, as previously considered. The committee also voted to approve new digital speed signs to address citizen concerns about residential speeding. The final vote was 4 to 0.

“The idea is to educate and change the patterns of the drivers,” Najar said.

For updates on the West Gayle Street waterline project, Najar held up a rusted connection excavated from the waterline. He said he was concerned what other waterlines of a similar age might look like and reiterated that he was protective of the water enterprise funds.

He also said the following five projects will be advertised on Sunday and open for bid on Nov. 13: South Atkinson Avenue project, Montana-Stone realignment, annual maintenance contract, North Main Street alley/sewer replacement contract and the Mescalero Road lift station.

Ryan Porter said the bottom layer on “Un-Tana” was paved on the 19th Street and Union Avenue intersection and the final layer will be done on Friday. Mayor Kintigh asked when it will be open and Porter said “the deal” is for it to be open next week after Councilor Grant asked for clarification. Najar said, even if the Un-tana project is not opened officially by the end of the week, there will be a temporary opening to accommodate the work on North Washington next week.

Steve Miko, director of sanitation, landfill and recycling, said the installation of lids on the tan trash cans is set to be 74 percent complete by the end of October. In 2020, the city is looking into moving to 96-gallon containers per household, according to Najar.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.