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PRWID board examines relationship with smaller water companies in county

Water meters are a common sight in every community. PRWID is now looking at what to do about meters that they have been reading that are on private lines. With this meter in Carbonville, PRWID is responsible for maintenance on the street side of the line, but the owner of the house it runs to is reponsible for the line from the meter to the house.

Sun Advocate publisher

Over the years the Price River Water District has developed various relationships with small water companies throughout the county, most of which buy their water directly from PRWID. Some of those relationships entail written agreements and others have entailed verbal agreements. In some cases the district reads a master meter that feeds the systems, in other cases they go to individual houses within the smaller system and read meters. Because of this some board members have been concerned about the inconsistencies and want to see a policy developed that defines what those relationships should be.

"I am most concerned about the liabilities we have as a district when our personnel have to go on private property for any reason," said board member Mike Dalpiaz during Tuesday nights PRWID board meeting. "We have been treating many of these people like a direct PRWID customer and they are not."

While the issue doesn't affect a large number of homes in the area, it does affect certain pockets of settlements throughout the county, including some areas near Helper and others around Wellington. In one case the county has a master meter that feeds three homes, yet the homes are each on their own meters that PRWID reads and bills them for. However, past the master meter, the line is legally owned by the landowners and should be responsible for it if any maintenance needs to be done on it. However the meters set off those lines for each house was put in by PRWID many years ago.

At another spot in the county, where there is a master meter that feeds a number of homes, PRWID only reads the master meter, sends a bill to one of the homeowners and the people living in the various homes divide up the costs themselves. A common policy for how to handle these kinds of situations seems to be in the offing from the board.

Clay Wright, the supervisor of maintenance for the district explained to the board that the situation has arisen over the years in various kinds of situations.

"I have been here long enough that I remember a lot of these situations and why they were done," he told the board. "We installed meters on some of these and on others we didn't. We just did what we were told to do."

Jeff Richens, who was named as the new district manager of PRWID last spring said that some of the procedures concerning how things were handled were inherited from many years ago.

One of the boards biggest concerns was what would happen if there was a problem with lines on which the district has been reading meters, yet the district doesn't own the line. In some cases the situation is clear because of agreements, in others it is not.

"Last week we had a big break on Friday night on a six inch steel pipe that had been put in during the 1940's in Spring Glen," said board member Keith Cox. "That line is within Spring Glen's water system and we called PRWID and they came out and fixed if for us. Now we know that even though that is our line, we will be billed for those services because it was ours."

The question is, do other water companies, some much smaller than Spring Glen's know that this will be the case if they have a problem?

"What happens if a line breaks that runs from our master meter to other meters we have set and it has to be repaired?" asked Dalpiaz. "We could have to eat the cost of the repair and of the water that is lost."

In the case of most private homes the district maintains the lines up to and including the meter. Past the PRWID's meter is the responsibility of the homeowner.

"In at least one of these cases we aren't even reading the master meter; so if a 100,000 gallons of water is lost we will have to eat it," stated Dalpiaz. "I think we need to fix this situation."

Other board members agreed that something needed to be done, but all were concerned about fairness and tradition too. Because of all the concerns, the board will be turning the situations over to the districts attorney, Nick Sampinos, so he can render an opinion on how the situation can be resolved legally.

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