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Sheffield studies water discrepancies

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 3:34 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 3:37 p.m. CDT

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SHEFFIELD — The Sheffield Village Board took action Tuesday night to solve a community water mystery.

The mystery involves discrepancies between how much water the master flow meters at the Public Works Department say residences and businesses are consuming. The Public Works Department is measuring 24 million gallons a year. Residential and business water meters are only measuring 17 million gallons a year.

In order to get to the bottom of the seven million gallon difference, the village board approved of tests to get an accurate understanding of the village’s water usage. The tests will be conducted by Midwest Meter of Edinburgh.

In a discussion with the board, representatives from Midwest Meter suggested tests of the village’s two master flow meters be made. Several 2-inch usage meters in the village will also be tested. The cost for the preliminary tests will be upwards of $1,000. Results from the tests should be available within a week of the tests taking place. Once those results are in, the village will have to decide whether to replace the flow meters, the residential and business meters, or both.

Representatives from Midwest Meter said water problems such as those being experienced by the village are usually the result of inaccurate meters at the water plant and in the village proper. Meters can become faulty over time and produce inaccurate readings. The inaccurate readings also result in improper sewage billing, since water and sewer usage are linked. The tests will be conducted in the spring due to village manpower constraints in the winter. The tests will be supervised by Public Works Superintendent Leif Porter.

According to representatives from Midwest Meter, the village’s meter read problems could be the result of chemicals and minerals in the water. Chemicals and minerals in water can cause meters to read slow or fast. The effects of chemicals and minerals tend to increase over time, so meters should be changed every 10 years according to water association standards. The village’s meter read discrepancies have increased over time.

Depending on the meter type chosen, prices for new residential and business meters would be in the $145 to $185 range. The village has between 450 and 500 meters on its water grid. It is unlikely the village would replace all of the meters at one time. The life expectancy of a typical water meter is around one million gallons. To put that number in perspective, a typical U.S. residence uses about 6,000 gallons of water a month.

In other news, Connie Hahne reported the new playground equipment project has reached $42,500 toward its $50,000 goal. Many of the donations came from outside the community.

The playground equipment will be ordered in January. The project committee plans on keeping the big swing and the big slide at Veterans/School Park. All of the other existing equipment will be removed.

The playground equipment project plans to replace decrepit and obsolete equipment at the village’s park. Hahne said a lot of younger parents have been taking their children to playgrounds in other cities that have better equipment.

At the meeting, Hahne presented a poster with graphics showing the types of the planned equipment. The project intends to have the equipment installed by June 2014. It will use volunteers, many of them local farmers, with the help of equipment provider Play Creations.

The new playground will have to meet state and federal guidelines, so there is concern about whether to cover the playground with mulch or pea gravel.

The playground equipment project also wants to construct a memorial brick wall to help fund the upkeep of the equipment.

Hahne noted the village has not spent any money on the project. Board members responded by suggesting the village put $7,500 toward the project’s shortfall.

Village Mayor William Rosenow also presented a $1,000 check to the playground equipment project. The check was from former Sheffield resident Conrad Hewitt. Hewitt resides in Napa, Calif. Hewitt gave the donation in honor of his mother, Blanche Hewitt, of Sheffield, who turned 105 years old on Oct. 15.

The local American Legion says it wants to help fund the playground equipment project, too, according to board member Chester Fritz.

Rosenow also suggested the village look into construction of a public restroom for the park, akin to those found at the nearby Hennepin Canal.

Also at the meeting, an audit of the village’s finances was presented by David Wilcoxson of Wilcoxson & Associates Ltd. of LaSalle. The good news is that the village is in the black. A highlight of the audit was that the assessed valuation of the village increased in 2012 to $6.7 million. Assessed value levy is now at $1.88 per thousand, so taxes and revenue are about the same as last year. Wilcoxson also said the village has reached the maximum amount of money it can receive without increasing taxes through a referendum. The board expressed interest in the ability of the village to assess a tax to help pay for the village park.

In other business, the village board approved the promotion of Mike Minneart, a hired laborer, to full-time status with a wage of $12.50 an hour. He has worked part-time for the village since April. A rezoning request was also approved to change a lot to B3 to build a vet clinic. The first payment for sewer plant begins this month. The payment will be $6,000 quarterly.

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