Time for monthly water bills

About four times a year, residents and property owners in Grand Haven are faced with a familiar sight — the quarterly water bill.
Feb 17, 2014

For countless years, the city has relied on this method of collecting payments from residents for their water and sewer usage.

All that could soon change in the city if a plan proceeds to make the switch to a monthly billing cycle for these two utilities.

To this idea, we say it’s about time.

It seems there may be a tremendous benefit in changing up the billing cycle to be more frequent.

This would make it easier for residents to budget for their bills. Quarterly statements also deliver surprises such as huge bills after water leaks were left undiscovered for months, whereas a monthly bill would allow residents to be more proactive in managing their water use.

It also seems like it’d be a benefit for the city, which would get its money on a more frequent basis and would help with cash flow. Instead of having to wait every three months for a large sum of cash, there would be regular streams of revenue coming to the city.

But, in order for this to happen, the city must undertake a project to install new water meters that would automatically read water use data. Again, to this idea, we say go for it.

It seems like the time is right to do something to bring the city forward with its billing process. If other utility providers are able to provide monthly bills, why not the city?

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.


Former Grandhavenite

If they're going to install smart meters they should get the type with the software to recognize that something's wrong if your water usage suddenly doubles all at once. It could text or email you to give a heads up that you probably have a leak unless that was the day you were filling up your pool or something.

I have a smart meter for climate control at my place, and it's nice to be able to turn up or down the heat as I leave work so it'll be comfy by the time I get home. The usage data you can look at online are also interesting, and I see spikes in certain hours and remember, "Oh yeah that was laundry afternoon, or that was the day I switched from incandescent to CFL bulbs, etc."

I'd hate to see the meter-readers out of a job though. Does that job even exist anymore in most places? Sometimes I wonder if our society ultimately has a net benefit from inefficiency in that it provides a lot of jobs. Advocates of automating everything and replacing human employees with technology should keep in mind that it's unlikely a long-time meter reader has the ability to simply go back to college and become an electrical engineer or something. More likely they're just going to take an early retirement or go on disability pay, etc. As technology advances it'll start chipping away at "knowledge based" jobs as well, not just the relatively unskilled jobs and physical labor. I don't know what the answer is to this problem.


Talking about job losses, another example of a company making things easier at the same time eliminating a worker,

Former Grandhavenite

If truly functional artificial intelligence arrives on the scene at some point, or if somebody comes up with an algorithm to model the human thought process or even to model personality traits and emotions we'll probably see quite an upheaval and a lot could change over a short time in all aspects of life.

I'm impressed by the Siri AI for iOS devices. Although it's not quite Star Trek level AI it's awesome to be walking down the hall and say to my iPad, "New note, call Bob about meeting at two PM", "Email updated spreadsheet to all team members", or "Start Google Maps I-95 traffic" and it actually launches the right program and takes that action. Even at home if I'm making some food I ask my iPad stuff like "How many teaspoons are in a cup?" As an alternative I could have walked over to my desktop system and found the answer in Google or used a calculator and a cookbook, but this shows how human workers can do things more efficiently and cheaply with tech. This stuff is just going to keep getting more effective over time although it's not really clear whether that'll ultimately be a good or a bad thing for us.


Those self checkout lines in grocery stores surely put some people out of work. I hate to use those things...I feel guilty when I do but it is kinda nice when you only have one or two items and the other lines are long.
There was a time in my life when I pumped gas into peoples cars and checked their oil and washed their windows. I was happy to have that job and it really helped me and my new expectant wife. Now everyone pumps their own gas and washes their own windows. I don't know of any place with full service gas attendants. Does anyone out there know of any place like that? I am just curious. Do you know of any restaurants with bus boys who clear the tables? My son felt fortunate to have that job while in high school. So many jobs have been eliminated, it seems...what a shame!

Former Grandhavenite

In Oregon and New Jersey it's illegal for drivers to pump their own gas. I believe that was the case in many other areas as well in the past, but those two states are the only two left in the US. I think part of the rationale is that before the cars and the pumps both had as much modern equipment like automatic shutoff valves, etc pumping gas was more dangerous unless you had a bit of training on how to do it safely.

It's fairly controversial in those states because now its strictly about protecting jobs and it's hard to argue nowadays that the average person isn't capable of pumping their own gas, but I'd hate to see all those folks out of work. I hate that kind of scenario and there's no easy answer because automation and progress are always going to march on but what's going to happen to those folks? Realistically they're not all going to go get degrees in petroleum engineering and design a refinery or embedded systems programming to develop software to run the pump or something.

Some of the jokers around here don't hesitate to pump gas while smoking, and one member of Aerosmith blew up his Ferrari by not even bothering to shut the engine off, not to mention smoking and talking on a cell phone at the same time. There are "full service" stations in some of the more upscale parts of town here and even though I'm not in their target demographic and drive an older car I go through full-service every now and then because it's nice to get all your fluids checked and topped off, a little WD-40 in your door hinges, a little air in the tires, etc but generally I'd rather save the 25 cents per gallon by pumping it myself.

Edit: When I saw those self-checkout machines for the first time when the 'new' Meijers opened south of town, I would have guessed that by now 15+ years later there'd be no human clerks left. After actually using the machine I became less worried. Until they make the self-checkout systems a lot smarter and capable of using good AI to solve more of their own problems, and make the machines capable of teaching customers to use them without intervention from a human clerk, a large percentage of people will refuse to use them. Until the average person can get through the checkout without hearing, "Please place the item back on the scale" six times and the human clerk having to intervene lots of folks will still avoid them.

2nd edit: Some restaurants have bus boys around here, but they tend to be pretty upscale and also have weird staff members like the "waiter captain", etc. With more employees you get better service, but the base prices are higher and there are also more people needing a tip. Big cities still have a lot of jobs that are basically extinct most places. We've got cobblers who'll fix your shoes, etc but I think they're only here because we've also got folks walking around town in $1000 shoes made of alligator or something. We literally have coopers who will make you a barrel, but it's generally for some wealthy person wanting to age their high end liquor. Haberdashers will hook you up with a good looking suit, but it ain't Jos. A Bank and they don't do 2-for-1 deals at places like that.


Einstein - The Citgo station in Ferrysburg, Tri-Cities Oil, on the corner of Pine and Ridge, pumps gas and washes windows for customers, as well as checks tire air pressure, if needed. They are rarely more than a penny over the going rate, and do a great job.

Tri-cities realist

And if it is not too busy and you have a few minutes, Swede will likely entertain you with his knowledge of the area's local history... But you may need to get out of your car and go into the station. Love that guy.

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