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Cottage Grove to replace outdated residential water meters

Cottage Grove residents might want their pocket calendars handy the next time the phone rings because it could be DSG Metering Technology calling to schedule the replacement of their outdated water meter.

The Burnsville-based company has been contracted by the city of Cottage Grove for a five-year, $244,000 project that will replace 7,500 water meters in homes throughout the city.

The last major meter replacement project was in 1993 when the city replaced 4,500 water meters. For residents with homes built between 1984 and 1993, however, their meter will need to be replaced as part of the new program.

"The internal mechanisms do start to degrade over time and the accuracy of the reading starts to get lost," said Cottage Grove City Engineer Jennifer Levitt. "Just like anything, these meters have a life expectancy and we have hit that critical threshold to where they need to be upgraded."

Levitt explained that, for example, the old water meters may not be allowing the city to collect the appropriate revenue caused by inaccurate water flow data. She said that does play into how each home is billed, but with the city reporting the data to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, she stressed the importance of keeping accurate records.

The replacement project has been in the city's capital improvement plan agenda since 2009 and will be paid from the water utility fund. That revenue is collected on residential water bills.

"The city has planned for some time in order to find the most economical way to do this," Levitt said. "And, actually with the joint services agreement with other communities, going out for bids together is a win for everyone."

The city of Cottage Grove has partnered with Stillwater and South St. Paul, among other area cities who are also undertaking a water meter replacement project, in order to save money. Because Cottage Grove is partnering with these cities, Levitt said, the cities will get a better per-unit rate.

Levitt added that the city is saving money by contracting with a business rather than doing the work itself.

"Essentially all the labor associated with the installation of the water meters is free," Levitt said. "Plus, we are saving a few bucks on each meter. It's really a great win for everyone."

Cottage Grove City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said the replacement process could begin as early as next month, pending signatures on the formal contract, and will affect about 1,500 homes in the first year of the project.

Once the replacement process begins, homeowners will be contacted by DSG to set up an appointment for a replacement expert to enter the home and replace the meter, which is usually located in a utility room where the water line enters the home. The installation process is fairly quick, Levitt said.