Just weeks into the first billing period for new water meters in Beardstown, City Hall already has been fielding numerous questions and complaints.
During a council committee meeting this week, water department officials said there may be about 200 reported leaks in water lines. Although residents have received notices of possible leaks, many have not acted on them. Once the first rounds of bills go out in September, the city expects to be busy with customer complaints.
“It’s only going to get worse when the new bill comes out,” Water Superintendent Clint Brewer said. “There’s no way it’s not going to get worse. People are going say, ‘Can you please come reread my meter because there’s no way I used that much water.’ We’re already getting that.”
Aldermen agreed to spend about $8,000 for an additional water meter reading device because the department had only one. The expense should help in dealing with the expected flood of complaints and requests tor rereading, as well as provide a backup in case one goes down.
For customers needing water service turned on, Public Works Director Gary Hamilton said the busiest time for requests is between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Fridays, often causing the department to run into overtime concerns.
Soon, the city plans to save that overtime. Now that turning water off and on requires reading meters — and with only one person currently trained to use a reader — it’s not going to be possible to make that a quick process.
“If it’s a broken pipe obviously … someone is going to drop what they’re doing and turn it off,” Hamilton said. “But we have such a turnover in this town, it’s impossible to keep up. They have to schedule it somewhat. … It’s a process, a learning process, but we’re getting it down. We still have several questions to answer.”
Also Tuesday, aldermen voted to support changing police department shifts from eight hours to 12 hours, giving officers more time off and potentially saving the city on overtime.
Beardstown Police Chief Roy Hurst said the 12-hour shift used by a majority of police departments in the nation was what he was used to in all of his previous positions. He offered it as a suggestion and said the officer’s union seemed to welcome a trial run.
“They’re a union. They aren’t going to have it if they don’t want it,” Hurst said. “We still have a couple guys with questions about it, so they are having another meeting.”
Hurst said one of the primary benefits is that it guarantees officers will receive more free time on weekends.
“They’ll have a three-day weekend every other weekend,” he said. “Working five days one week and three the next. Plus, we have eight full time officers, and it ensures we have two offers on duty on at all times.”
The council voted in favor of a six-month trial period. Mayor Steve Patterson said he felt the 12-hour shifts will also help the city save on overtime.
“I know, like Jacksonville, a lot of other departments have done it and it should save on comp time, so we’re hoping its going to work out,” he said.
Cody Bozarth can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @JCnews_Cody.