Elkton considers ‘smart’ water meter upgrades
— The mayor and commissioners heard Wednesday from the first of two companies seeking the contract to replace the town’s 6,600 water meters with newer, more technologically savvy versions.
For several years now, town officials have discussed how the town’s aging water meters are unreliable and often under-report usage for properties. Officials believe that upgrading the meters to more technologically advanced equipment will improve accuracy and decrease the labor involved in water billings.
Currently, Severn Trent, which runs the town’s water and waste operations, performs the meter readings while the town’s Department of Public Works is responsible for the maintenance of the meters.
During the commissioners’ Wednesday afternoon workship, LB Water, which currently supplies the town with Sensus meters, gave town officials a presentation about their Sensus Smart Meters and FlexNet systems. No costs were discussed during the presentation and will not be discussed until after the other contender for the project, Ferguson Waterworks, Meter and Automation Group, presents its products and services to the board on Jan. 11, said Lewis George, town administrator, in an email.
Ed Denver, technical service specialist with LB Water, along with two others from the company, discussed the company’s Sensus FlexNet system, which is both a fixed-based network system for meter reading and an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system.
The AMI system is an interface system, which means the Sensus Smart Meter communicates information such as water consumption, status and diagnostic data to the FlexNet network for monitoring and billing purposes. The information captured is given to the town to generate a bill for the customer.
He said the town can be covered with two towers, which are needed so the tower and meters can communicate with each other.
There is also a second system, which is the automatic meter reading system or AMR. This is a handheld reading system in which
the person must go up to or use a handheld device when going past the meter to retrieve the meter reading.
The two systems have features that benefit both the town and customers.
Currently, the town bills in 100-gallon increments, and meter readings can be taken to as little as a tenth of a gallon, Denver said. The utility can also find water leaks, he added.
Although the number of people performing meter readings will decrease, their roles will transform into that of meter technicians, helping people with troubleshooting or responding to a water leak, he said. Denver noted meter readings are also more accurate.
There is also the option of switching from quarterly water bills to monthly water bills with the technology, Denver said.
Although it increases the town’s mailing costs, it does give people the ability to budget better and pay a lower bill every month, rather than pay one large bill every quarter, he noted.
Denver also spoke about Sensus FlexNet Analytics software, which has capabilities such as a customer portal, which allows the customer to pay online, among other features.
He noted that North East has been using the Sensus FlexNet Logic software, which is a meter data management software that includes the ability to track water flow trends, for about three and a half years. For the past 10 years, Rising Sun has been using the Sensus FlextNet CUSI system, which focuses only on meter readings, Denver said.
Mayor Rob Alt said he enjoyed the presentation from LB Water.
He said the switch to “smart” water meters will benefit residents.
“I feel as though this is definitely an advantage for the residents of our town,” he noted. “I believe it’s going to be a way to save our residents money in their water bills and sewer bills.”
He said the town is looking at a cost of over $2 million for the project, but labor costs to install the meters will likely bring the price tag to $3 million. The cost will be funded through the town’s Major Facilities Fund, which is funded through water and sewer connections, principally paid by developers for new construction and others who connect to the town distribution and collection system.
Alt said he’d like to see the project done within six months to a year, once a company is chosen.
Town staff will bring a recommendation regarding which company to choose and Alt said he hopes this will happen by the end of January, so the cost can be put in the town’s fiscal year 2018 budget.
Ed Denver, a technical service specialist with LB Water, holds up two water meters during the presentation on Wednesday.