The Van Meter City Council held it’s regular monthly meeting on Thursday, July 20 at Veterans Reception Center in Van Meter.

The approved a motion, allowing Utility Service Partners to use city letterhead to market water main repair insurance to those living in the City of Van Meter. This comes in response to last month’s meeting, where a citizen reported that a water main, which was not on her property, was leaking and she was stuck with the repair bill, as per city code.

With its approval, Utility Service Partners will now send out mailers to residents of Van Meter, educating them on what they are responsible for when it comes to their water line, as well as offer them insurance policies on their water line.

For the use of its letterhead, City Administrator Jake Anderson says that the city will receive 50 cents for every insurance policy purchased in Van Meter.

“I think the reason for that is mostly just a mechanism to make us aware of how many of these insurance policies are in the community,” Anderson said.

Currently, the resident is responsible for all water and sewer lines from their home all the way to the water main, even if the water main is on the other side of the street from their property. Anderson said that policy is pretty standard in other communities that he reached out to, with the exception of Waukee, who takes responsibility up to the property line.

Anderson said that the city could also change its policy in regards to water line responsibility, but that would require them to increase their water rates.

“My sense was that you’ve been aggressive enough with water rates already and moving forward, really, the solution, I think, was just more public awareness… along with an insurance policy,” Anderson said.

The products that will be advertised and offered include external sewer/septic line warranty for $88 per year, external water service line warranty for $76 per year and an in-home plumbing warranty for $114.99 per year.

Mayor pro tem, Kim Sacker, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Alan Adams, said that the same insurance policies have been presented to the Iowa League of Cities.

“A lot of towns already have it or offer it to their citizens,” Sacker said.

Before its unanimous approval, Councilman Mike Peterson voiced support for the plan.

“I don’t see any reason not to do this, especially for the fact that we’ve already discussed it,” Peterson said. “We probably want to put more information out there and even if nobody does this, we don’t have to pay to print and mail this out to people.”

Cellular water meter reading transmissions

Dan Sinclair, from Metering and Technology Solutions, a company based out of Burnsville, Minn., was on hand to discuss a device that would allow residents to check their water usage online and avoid surprises when they get their monthly bill.

The ORION Water Endpoint is a device that can be installed on individual home owners’ water lines, after the meter, and sends water usage data to a cloud-based system, via a cellular network.

Sinclair said the system has been helpful in smaller towns for families on fixed incomes, who don’t have the technology to monitor their water use.

“You can go to this system as a city employee, or as a mayor or anybody who has access to the password and they can actually monitor the system and let them know that they have a leak,” Sinclair said.

“The nice thing about it is it tells you how big the leak is and you can get a hold of a home owner… you can tell somebody out there ‘do you know you have a leak? Do you know you’re leaking this much water every day?’ And at the end of the month, this is what your bill’s going to be, water and sewer, based on this rate.”

Sinclair said while many people approach their city council’s and challenge the price of their water bill, this would allow them to stay ahead of that and be proactive instead of reactive.

He also said it would help people better understand how much water their irrigation systems, toilets, and other water-using appliances they have in their homes, use. He said that most people don’t understand how quickly small leaks can add up throughout the month.

“This is where people, instead of getting a two to three thousand gallon… water usage and sewer bill, they’re getting 12 to 15 thousand,” Sinclair said.

The system is guaranteed for 10 years and is on the LTE network. The batteries have a life span of 13 years. The meters that Van Meter puts on new homes, from the same company, have a life span of about 20 years.

Sinclair said he cautions them not to put the Water Endpoints on old technology.

In a case where the internet and the network goes down due to bad weather, the device itself can store up to 80 days of data, says Sinclair.

Anderson said that he would like to pilot the idea on new homes for a year going forward, and if all goes well, they could retrofit other homes with the device.

The item on the agenda was for discussion only, so the council was unable to take any action at the meeting, regarding the devices.