Elkton con­sid­ers ‘smart’ wa­ter me­ter up­grades

Cecil Whig - - & - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

ELKTON

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY BRI­ANNA SHEA

Ed Den­ver, a tech­ni­cal ser­vice spe­cial­ist with LB Wa­ter, holds up two wa­ter me­ters dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion on Wed­nes­day.

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