New Hope City Council approves $200 fine for manual water meter reading

New Hope LogoNew Hope is tired of seeing the cost trickle down from manual water meter reading.
The New Hope City Council unanimously approved a resolution Jan. 14 implementing a $200 monthly fine for the five percent of residences in the city (between 150-200 homes) that have not had water meter transponder heads replaced. The transponders are installed at no cost to the homeowner and allow the city to monitor water use without having to go into the home.

More than 5,300 new transponders have been installed since the current replacement program started nearly six years ago.
According to Public Works Director Guy Johnson, all of the sites in question have received at least one certified letter. The fee will be imposed until the homeowner calls the city to make an appointment to have a new transponder installed.
Part of the problem is that the technology installed a decade ago is reaching the end of its useful life.
“The transponder has a battery system in it,” Johnson explained during the meeting. “We completed a meter change out program in 2003, were told by the vendor in that battery life is 10 years, so we’re at the tail end. The other issue for us is that software being used to read the transponder is not supported any longer. The computer is not being built any longer, so we’ve had to take it in for custom repairs to it. It’s very costly.”

“So this is going to save staff time?” Council Member John Elder asked.
“Substantially,” Johnson replied. “We don’t have the option to read the old remotes. Our only way to get a reading is to get into the house, in the basement.”
New Hope City Attorney Steve Sondrall said the meter reading fee was being increased from $35 to reflect potential cost to the city regarding billing and correction issues.
“The $35 (fine) is way too low,” Sondrall said. “This isn’t a sanction. This is the city recouping the cost if they are forced to do manual reading of the meter.”
The fees will go into place May 1.
(Editor’s note: If you are one of the homeowners who needs a new transponder head installed, Public Works can be reached 763-592-6777 to set up an appointment.)
During its Jan. 14 meeting, the New Hope City Council also:
• Unanimously approved the purchase of a new Caterpillar loader for $151,773. The new Caterpillar 924K loader will replace one the city has used for 13 years. The old unit had a trade-in value of $36,000, which lowered the cost of new loader from its original price of $186,000.
Loaders are used year-round for water main repairs, street and park maintenance and plowing cul-de-sacs.
• Unanimously approved a $5,404 raise (5 percent) for City Manager Kirk McDonald. The raise increases his salary to $113,490 per year.
“I’ve got to say, I’m not one to willy-nilly praise people for the job they are supposed to do, but it’s been a pleasure to work with Kirk,” said Council Member Dan Stauner. “I don’t think it’s about the money for him – he’s a true professional.”
• Unanimously approved a resolution scheduling a Feb. 11 public hearing on the projected use of funds from the 2013 Urban Hennepin County Community Development Block Grant Program. The county has set Feb. 28 as the deadline for cities to determine how the funds will be used.
• Unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Community Development staff to solicit quotes for the rehabilitation of a city-owned property at 6064 Xylon Avenue North. According to Hennepin County Property Records, the  1,956-square foot house, which was built in 1969, was sold to Branch Banking and Trust Company in February 2012 and purchased by the city for $147,000 in October.
Community Development Director Curtis Jacobsen said that the city was trying to keep renovation costs under $15,000. That cost includes replacement of various household fixtures that were removed from the home prior to the foreclosure, Jacobsen said – including a toilet seat.
The city plans to sell the home to a qualifying low-income family when renovations are completed.