Watering lawns may get cheaper

Published 8:27 am Friday, August 14, 2009

FRANKLIN—City residents who use irrigation systems to water their lawns or gardens have expressed concerns for years about how costly it can be, but now city officials think they may have found a solution to the cost concerns.

“It’s a concern that you’ve heard for a long time,” City Manager June Fleming told City Council members. “I’ve heard it the whole year I’ve been here.”

The City Council approved a measure Monday night that allows residents to tap into their existing water service behind the city meter and install a second meter just for an irrigation system. They will still pay an inflated cost for sewage, but their irrigation system meter will be read once a year, and they will be issued a credit on their sewer bill based on the amount of water used for irrigation. Users will also be required to pay for the new meter, which costs about $280, and its installation.

The two options previously open for irrigation systems in the city required residents to either pay $3,500 to have a new water meter installed just for the irrigation system or to have the irrigation system hooked into the existing water meter that serves the home, which leads to significantly inflated sewage fees every month.

Amanda Jarratt, deputy director of community development, said that all three options would be available to residents.

“Residents may want to do a cost-benefit analysis for themselves to figure out what they feel will be most economical to them,” she said.

All three options require a backflow preventer, which prevents the systems from contaminating the city’s water system. The backflow preventers must be inspected yearly, at a cost of about $150.

Some residents who already have irrigation systems spoke during the meeting’s public comment period. They said that they had been overcharged hundreds of dollars in sewage fees and asked that the city consider paying for their new meters under the third option in return.

“I’ve paid a total of $386.50 for water to water the lawn, and none of it’s going through the sewer lines,” said city resident Gerald Whitley. “I do hate to have to pay for that meter when I feel like that’s $386 that I already paid out for something I didn’t receive.”

Council members agreed to consider covering the costs of the new water meters for residents who already have irrigation systems and have been overcharged.