Trafalgar City Council Advances Bulk Water Purchasing Policy
Trafalgar is making progress in adopting standards for commercial water carriers that purchase city water.
Trafalgar City Council, at its meeting on Thursday, passed a policy to better standardize the bulk water buying process. Among other things, the new ordinance requires water carriers to enter into a written agreement with the city before purchasing water.
The policy comes a month after council held a special meeting to address concerns about the city’s lack of accountability to bulk water carriers who purchase water. Trafalgar had for years been on an “honor system” when selling bulk water to commercial contractors, and had no system to officially track purchases. Carriers buying water in bulk from Trafalgar could fill it up at any fire hydrant in the city and then call the utility office to report the amount they had taken.
It is not uncommon for town or city utilities to sell bulk water to contractors who fill swimming pools, home builders, or a company that transports water to underserved areas. . These contractors buy water in thousands of gallons at a time to transport it.
Some council members saw flaws in the city’s bulk water purchasing system, and a couple speculated that some water carriers might be stealing due to the lack of a formal system. However, no proof of theft was produced.
With the ordinance passed Thursday, it enshrines in city code that all commercial water carriers should only refuel at the fire hydrant of the city’s water tower located near the state highway. 252, as it can be monitored by security cameras. Using other fire hydrants in the city is considered illegal and could result in a $1,500 fine for violation, according to the ordinance.
A potential draft written agreement by the city, which water carriers must sign with the city, based on the new ordinance, details requirements for commercial carriers. It requires all carriers to provide their own meter and certify its calibration with the city, or the city will provide meters to those who do not have one.
To borrow a meter, a carrier will need to provide a deposit – yet to be determined – with the Trafalgar Utility Clerk. Upon return of the water meter, the deposit would be refunded. If the city’s water meter is not returned within 48 hours of departure, the city will retain the deposit as damages.
The city is still working on how many yards it should buy for loan. Loggan Axsom, the city’s acting superintendent of utilities, said Thursday that if the city wanted to buy a meter for every water carrier that currently has an account with the city, it would cost about $3,000 per meter.
Meters are hard to come by right now, which makes them more expensive, he said.
“Meters are always an option, but it’s just really expensive, depending on how many water carriers you have,” Axsom said.
The draft agreement would also require carriers to report their bulk water purchases in writing every Monday to the city’s utility clerk’s office. A report should include the name of the company, the total number of visits to the water tower, and the number of gallons spilled in the previous week.
City officials are still continuing discussions on the topic of bulk water, and further actions are expected in the coming months. The city is working on setting rates for commercial water carriers, as there are currently none. Carriers are currently billed based on residential water rates.
The council also discussed on Thursday the option of buying a filling station coin-operated machine to be placed at the water tower. Carriers could use the machine to select the amount of water they want and prepay the amount with coins. It would be an alternative to the city spending thousands of dollars buying meters to loan out, and it would eliminate the requirement to send weekly reports to the biller.
City council members agreed that buying the slot machine would be ideal, but that depends on whether the city can afford it. Axsom said the machine will cost around $8,000 to buy, and installation will cost more.