Elk­ton ex­plores ‘smart’ me­ter up­grades plan

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

ELK­TON

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— The town is mov­ing for­ward with a plan to up­grade its wa­ter me­ters, which looks to re­place at least 6,000 me­ters with “smart” me­ters.

Over the years, town of­fi­cials have dis­cussed how the ag­ing wa­ter me­ters are of­ten un­re­li­able, un­der-re­port­ing us­age for prop­er­ties. Of­fi­cials believe the up­grade to tech­no­log­i­cally bet­ter me­ters will im­prove ac­cu­racy and de­crease work­load in wa­ter billings.

Sev­ern Trent, which is con­tracted to run the town’s wa­ter and waste op­er­a­tions, cur­rently per­forms the me­ter read­ings, while the town’s Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works is in charge of their main­te­nance.

The town is in its pre­lim­i­nary stages and are look­ing into a few com­pa­nies and net­work sys­tems, town ad­min­is­tra­tor Lewis Ge­orge said Thurs­day.

Sen­sus FlexNet net­work sys­tem and Mueller Sys­tems’ Mi.Net AMI Sys­tem are both be­ing con­sid­ered, Mayor Rob Alt re­ported. He said the sys­tems have the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of trans­mit­ting wa­ter use data from wa­ter tow­ers di­rectly to the town, where cus­tomer billing will be gen­er­ated — sim­i­lar to the tech­nol­ogy up­grades seen in elec­tric me­ters in re­cent years.

On Sept. 27, the town’s con­tracted engi­neer­ing firm, KCI, sent in­for­ma­tion such as el­e­vated struc­tures in­clud­ing el­e­vated wa­ter tanks and tow­ers, among other nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion, to LB Wa­ter, a wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany, to con­duct a propagation study for the FlexNet sys­tem, Ge­orge said. He said there is no set date for the study to be com­pleted.

On Fri­day, Ge­orge said Fer­gu­son Water­works, Me­ter and Au­toma­tion Group, dis­trib­u­tor of the Mueller sys­tem, gave KCI a “bud­getary sales quote” on July 19 for the Mueller net­work. He said the quote would be con­sid­ered pre­lim­i­nary since the bud­get was only for 5,729 me­ters and there are more than that. Ge­orge said the town will have to have an ex­act amount of me­ters, type, size and lo­ca­tion in the town’s wa­ter sys­tem to cre­ate a “re­fined” bud­get. He said the bud­get did not in­clude in­stal­la­tion fees and sup­port­ing in­fra­struc­ture, so the cost of in­stal­la­tion has not yet been de­ter­mined.

Ge­orge said the town is in the pre­lim­i­nary stage of the me­ter up­grade plan and there is more plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment needed be­fore the town chooses a ven­dor and sys­tem.

Alt said he has a few fac­tors in mind that he is look­ing for in a com­pany to go with.

“I’m look­ing for a com­pany that gives the best cov­er­age, ser­vice and best me­ter for the best price,” he noted.

Alt said the smart me­ters will ben­e­fit all of the par­ties in­volved, such as the busi­nesses, res­i­dents and the town. He said the need for man­ual checks will no longer be needed and leaks can be caught ear­lier. He also noted that the sys­tem will give the town the op­tion to move from a quar­terly wa­ter bill to a monthly one.

Ge­orge said the town will not make a de­ci­sion on whether to move for­ward with any com­pany un­til a plan has been de­vel­oped, costs are de­ter­mined and the money to cover the project in the wa­ter and sewer funds are ap­proved.

Alt said the town is “prob­a­bly still months away from this de­ci­sion.”

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