TMWA Votes For Water Meters By 2010

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It's an idea that has been in the works since the late 1980's: converting the region's water users from a flat rate billing system to a metered one. But the pay for what you use idea has not been enthusiastically embraced and even though a majority of homes are now equipped to be metered, the actual decision to do so had not been made.

On Thursday night, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority board of directors voted 5-2 to convert all customers to a metered rate starting in January of 2010.

A majority of the board says the decision will give non-metered customers enough time to prepare for the switch, but others say the issue has been discussed for decades and the switch should happen even sooner.

"I call it a fairness issue," says Mike Carrigan, chairman of the TMWA. "There's no flat rate gas per month."

Carrigan was one of only two board members who voted against the legislation because he thinks one year is plenty of time for people to switch.

Flat-rate customer Ron Mentgen disagrees, saying nothing can prepare him for a spike in his water bill, which could ultimately cost him his home.

"We really don't want to leave, .but we might have to," says Mentgen.

Mentgen shares a common thread with many other flat-rate customers who oppose the change. He's been living in the same house for over 20 years and has always paid his bill the same way.

TMWA says the adjustment shouldn't be too difficult because 90 percent of its customers already have meters installed at their homes; and 60 percent of the customers affected by the switch will actually pay less.