Workers have started installing water meters at the northeast edge of town in an effort to comply with state law requiring all homes to have water meters by 2017.
Everett is one of only two large cities in the state that bill some of its utility customers at a flat rate. Bellingham is the other.
It's a big job. Two-thirds of the homes in Everett don't use meters. That's 12,500 out of 19,500 houses.
Getting all the meters installed is expected to take around five years, said public works director Dave Davis.
It also will cost the city's utility department at least $9.5 million.
City workers just started a few weeks ago on the northeast tip of the city.
Tracy Brown's home on Pilchuck Path was one of the first to get a water meter. Workers installed the meter while Brown was away. The city shut off water to her home for only a few minutes.
They dug a hole above her waterline, sucked out the dirt with a vactor truck and attached a meter inside a small box. Brown said she hardly noticed the meter box when she returned. It's located in her front yard near the edge of her property. The top of the box is flush with the ground.
The city shouldn't have to access the box again unless it malfunctions. The meters transmit a radio signal to a computer in a city vehicle as workers drive by.
"I am curious to see how it changes our bill," she said.
Homes in the northeast quadrant of town will receive the meters first, followed by people who live in the northwest.
People who own homes in the south end of town, may not get a meter for several years.
There should be plenty of notice before workers show up. The city is leaving door hangers and sending letters well before they arrive.
The utility department is paying for the upfront cost of each $750 meter as well as any other costs associated with the installation. If a sidewalk needs to be dug up or a shrub moved, the department will handle that, too.
Since the utility department is completely funded by ratepayers, it's ultimately they who will pay for the work.
Once the meters are installed, customers will have a grace period of at least a year during which they will continue to be billed at a flat rate. Their bills also will show the metered cost of water, so they can see exactly how much their use is costing.
For years, Everett has had two systems for billing its water customers. Most older homes are billed a flat rate: $154.80 every two months for a single-family home using both city sewer and water, or $87 every two months for water alone.
Starting in the mid-1990s, the city began requiring new homes to have meters.
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