Council hears proposal to upgrade meter readers

Published 10:11 pm Friday, May 25, 2018

The LaGrange City Council heard a proposal Tuesday to upgrade meter readers in the city to automatically collect consumption, diagnostic and status data.

The upgrades are estimated to cost around $11.3 million plus $100,000 a year for maintenance for the water, gas and electric meters and transmitters and other upgrade expenses.

“This is where we would convert our meters to the radio read system,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “This is just an estimate because we might get a little competition involved on the pricing, but what he gave me as a budgetary number was $11.3 million, which is a big item.”

Kelsey said that because of the variety of utilities involved, the project cannot be funded using a bond, which is how gas upgrades were funded. However, she did propose another funding option.

“What we talked about is if the council agrees to proceed on this project, is to look to GEFA [Georgia Environmental Finance Authority] funding and potentially get some money to get the base system up and do water and sewer and put some money in here to do gas, then go back into electric over the next couple of years,” Kelsey said.

Many of the meters that measure utilities are 18 to 20 years old according to Utilities Director Patrick Bowie, and the upgrades should improve meter accuracy throughout the city.

“What is driving us to this is the accuracy of our meters,” Kelsey said. “Our meters are getting older. In some cases, we don’t have access to a meter, and we have to estimate that for a customer, so that is difficult.”

Other local utility providers have already moved over to the radio system.

“The rest of the industry has moved in this direction over the last ten years, and there are very few utilities our size that have not done something in this area,” Bowie said. “Commercial is already taken steps on implementation.”

Bowie said that the city had not wanted to be an early adaptor on the technology for practical reasons, but he felt that now is a good time to adopt the technology.

“We’ve delayed and delayed and delayed as long as we could because it is expensive and the technology is changing rapidly every year, and we really didn’t want to be ahead of the curve,” Bowie said.

“We hope to make this a competitive process and get some competitive bids, and slowly move forward with it over several years so that we can get it implemented and enjoy some of the savings.”

The city’s meters are also so outdated that the meter manufacture no longer produces the meters in use throughout the city. Additionally, Bowie confirmed that the radio readers could help the city identify utility problems more quickly.

“All in all, this will be a good and needed thing for our utility,” Kelsey said.

The LaGrange City Council will meet on June 12 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.