You may not have even realized it, but your water meter will get a makeover soon, if it hasn’t already. The county is about half finished with its efforts to install new automated meter reading (AMR) systems on residential buildings.
The new meters allow employees to easily gather water use information without physically having to access meter boxes. They are equipped with a radio transmitter than sends each meter reading to an employee who slowly drives through the neighborhoods.
“The meters tend to lose accuracy as they age, so one of the benefits is the increased accuracy of the reading,” said county engineer Mary Strawn.
AMR will reduce errors now that employees will not have to manually enter meter numbers. It’s also viewed as a safety measure, considering workers won’t have to scramble in some places with hard to reach meters.
Residents can expect to see fewer “estimated reads” on their bills, due to the efficiency of the new meters. Previously, if county workers were unable to find a meter due to factors like snow accumulation, they would estimate a customer’s monthly water use.
The county began installing AMR equipment on commercial and multi-family residences in 2007. Now, the project has moved on to the 30,000 single family residences. Workers are about halfway through that task, and hope to finish by early 2013.
Notifications are being sent out to residents before work on their meters begins. Installation only takes about five minutes, so most people probably won’t even notice that work has been done.
Sometimes, after the meter has been upgraded, residents may temporarily notice a burst of air or rust colored water. This is not harmful, and briefly running the cold water should clear this up.
County Mulling Home Ownership Grants for Employees – Only about 25 percent of Arlington employees live actually in the county. To help make it easier for county employees to live here, the Arlington County Board is considering creating a $114,000 fund that would offer one-time grants to employees buying a house in Arlington. [Patch]
Library Archive Contains Lincoln Letter — Today is Emancipation Day: President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in the District of Columbia exactly 150 years ago, on April 16, 1862. Meanwhile, Lincoln was assassinated 147 years ago Saturday, on April 14, 1865. A letter from Arlington Public Library’s Virginia Room archives provides a personal, handwritten account of the assassination. [Arlington Public Library]
You just wouldn’t know it if you saw him riding down the street on his 1891 Columbia Light Roadster “penny-farthing” bicycle, a bike so old that the only replacement tires you can find for it are sold by the Amish.
Matthews, an employee in the Arlington County communications department and self-professed lover of “old stuff,” has been riding a bike to work every day for 10 years now. For a couple of days last week, Matthews caused a bit of a stir when he started commuting from his home in Falls Church to the county government building in Courthouse on the penny-farthing, instead of on his usual, low-key 1972 Peugeot three-speed. Tweets and emails started coming in to ARLnow.com, asking what was up with the guy pedaling through Ballston on the old-school, high-wheel bike.
As it turns out, the Peugeot had been stolen — like two other bikes before it — and the penny-farthing was the only working-order bike in Matthews’ sizable vintage bicycle collection. The married father of two says he doesn’t ordinarily commute on the penny-farthing, largely due to the fact that it takes twice as long to get wherever he’s going since he is constantly stopped by curious strangers who want to take photos and ask questions. That’s not to say, however, that Matthews doesn’t like the occasional ride on the 120-year-old bike, which weighs 35 pounds and requires little maintenance due to the lack of parts like chains or inner-tubes.
“Keeping it well-oiled is pretty much all you have to do,” he said. “It’s bombproof.”
Matthews’ 2- and 4-year-old also enjoy rides on the penny-farthing, made possible by the fact that his Cannondale children’s bike trailer can attach to the penny-farthing’s “backbone” (the pole that holds the smaller wheel).
You won’t be seeing much of the penny-farthing from here on out, since Matthews has fixed up another vintage bike as his every-day commuter. But the penny-farthing will still make occasional appearances. The bike, which could fetch as much as $2,000 at auction, technically belongs to one of Matthews’ friends, who rides it in parades. The friend has let Matthews ride the penny-farthing in exchange for storing it for the past several years — since the nearly 5-foot tall bike won’t fit in the friend’s home.
Capital Bikeshare Stations Launch in Rosslyn – Four Capital Bikeshare stations were quietly installed around Rosslyn on Saturday. There were no public notices or proclamations before the installation — unlike earlier in the week when officials announced that four stations were to be installed on Wednesday. The county followed up that announcement with a notice that the installation was delayed indefinitely. Update at 12:05 p.m. — See info on the installations from Bike Arlington. [Patch]
Humpback Bridge Work Nears Completion – The National Park Service expects construction on the Humpback Bridge reconstruction project to wrap up in mid-June. The final construction phase will allow a full merge from I-395 onto the northbound GW Parkway. [WTOP]
Bengali New Year Celebrated on the Pike — The local Bengali community came together for their traditional New Years celebration on Saturday. Despite the wet weather, Bengalis gathered near Columbia Pike for a parade, musical performances, dancing and ethnic food. [Pike Wire]
County Pay Raises in the Works? — On Saturday, Arlington County Board members instructed County Manager Barbara Donnellan to proceed with a study of county workers’ compensation, which some within county government believe is too low. Also on Saturday, the County Board voted to raise their own pay ceiling from $49,000 to $57,337. While board members won’t be getting any more money this year, the move opens up the possibility of a pay raise next year. [Sun Gazette]
After all, every taxpayer in Arlington knows that our famously progressive county probably pays employees more than anyone else in the region, right?
Arlington is, in fact, still playing catchup with Fairfax and Alexandria compensation-wise, County Manager Barbara Donnellan told a group of Arlington County Civic Federation delegates Tuesday night.
Donnellan cited a study released last year which determined that while employee benefits were on par with Fairfax and Alexandria, Arlington’s two biggest competitors in the job market, employee salaries lagged in more than half the job categories examined.
Another such study will be conducted next year.
Donnellan said that Arlington will likely continue to grant merit-based step increases to employees in the upcoming budget. That, she said, should help Arlington compete with Fairfax, which has frozen step increases. Like Arlington, however, Alexandria is still granting pay raises.
“Overall, we’re trying to maintain competitiveness,” Donnellan said. Comparisons to the private sector and to similar jurisdictions in other parts of the country are generally not helpful, Donnellan said, because the county is drawing from a different pool of potential job applicants.
Out of some 70 prospective applicants for a significant number of police vacancies (perhaps 20 to 30), only four were ultimately hired after a battery of physical and mental tests.
“Four doesn’t cut it,” Donnellan said, adding that more public safety recruiting classes will be necessary. In other job categories, she said, hiring is a mixed bag.
“We had a hiring freeze for two years, so when we do open up a job, we get a lot of applicants who are applying for it,” she said. “Are they the best and the brightest and fit exactly with the experience that we’re looking for? Not always. But we certainly have been able to capture some people in this downtime that are looking for a more stable environment to work in.”