By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Lewiston Town Board members approved a water department purchase just before the start of December at its last meeting Nov. 25.
Finance Director Michael Johnson asked the board to consider spending nearly $70,000 to buy a bulk amount of 500 water meter heads from a Lockport company to help the town in its efforts to replace its nearly 5,000 units in the field.
Water Department Distribution Systems Operator Bob Nablo, who solicited a number of bids for the purchase and made the recommendation for the purchase, said the town saved considerable money making such a large purchase.
"I normally buy a couple hundred every year," he said. "I usually put about $36,000 in my budget every year for this. This way, we saved about $15 per unit."
Nablo and the water department have spent the last eight or so years working to replace the water meters installed throughout the town. The previous meters, Trace, sold through Wisconsin-based Badge Meter, were old technology and no longer serviced by the company starting in 2005.
The new products, called ORION, broadcast a signal so readers will be able to drive along the street and find out how much water each unit has used. It's vital the numbers are accurate as both water and sewer bills are based on the figures gathered.
ORION meters also come with a 20-year battery, Nablo said, another reason for the change.
While finding the product to buy was easy, making the purchase was a little trickier. Because of the dollar amount, town officials needed to secure three bids from companies to show compliance with procurement policies. Nablo asked the town clerk's office to mail requests to several companies throughout the northeast based on research he'd done, expecting to get several responses and to pick the lowest figure.
Only one, from Lockport's Lock City Supply, was returned. Nablo was perplexed, so he called Lock City. He was told Badger wouldn't allow anyone else to bid based on territory.
Johnson said the town's policy was properly followed despite not securing three bids because the town made every effort to receive the proper numbers.
"There have to be three written quotes," Johnson said. "But the comptroller's office will be OK with this because if three written quotes aren't available, as long as we can show we went to three different suppliers, we're alright."
Acting Supervisor Gary Catlin agreed with Johnson, saying it's not uncommon for a specialized product like these particular water meters to be sold using territorial lines, keeping the town from following its own rules for purchasing.
In other town news, the final 2013 work session of the town board will begin at 6 p.m. Monday in Town hall, 1375 Ridge Road, Lewiston.
Beginning in January, Supervisor-elect Dennis Brochey will take his seat won in the November election, becoming the first Democrat to sit on the board since Fred Newlin held the same job in 2009.