The Depoe Bay City Council got a quick look at how future water meter bills will be created – and it doesn’t involve someone on foot dodging snarling dogs or swatting away spiders to get at the numbers on the hundreds of meters that have to be read every month in Depoe Bay.
A high tech meter reading company called Sensus, said to be the biggest firm of its kind in the northwest, pitched the council on switching to a semi-automated system that can read meters remotely with a hand held reader-recorder or from a radio remote reader by hand module or from inside a specially equipped utility vehicle. Any way you look at it, the labor savings are tremendous according to Sensus representative Todd Mitchell.
Mitchell told the council that the systems can also do a lot more than just spit out numbers on water use. They can detect abnormal consumption patterns that can suggest leaks within a customer’s home or business thereby revealing to the customer and to the city that something is wrong and needs to be fixed before the water bill goes through the roof.
He says whether water meter read-outs are gathered by hand or through a radio remote reading system, the data is quickly uploaded to the city’s utility billing computer, recorded, and bills kicked out quickly thereby saving even more labor costs.
Mitchell said the meters come with a 20 year warranty and the electronics associated with the meters are highly resistant to moisture and groundwater fluctuations. The critical devices are encased in thick composite plastic casings which enable the water meters, even if completely submerged in water, to transmit read-out numbers to a hand-held reader wand or to a nearby radio receiving vehicle.
The council thanked Mitchell for his presentation but gave no hint as to whether or when the town would take the leap into such high tech meter reading. They admitted however that the devices have the advantage of reducing labor costs by quite a bit. Some councilors wanted to know how much it would cost. Mitchell replied that it depends on which technology the council thinks would be the most effective for the city. He said his company can get long term financing, no problem. Councilors said they would need to see some hard numbers to determine whether the city could afford such a system or whether it would have to gently ease into it by converting more and more Depoe Bay water meters over a number of years.
Paying for such a system could come partly from labor savings in what it’s costing the city today to have all meters read by hand, various grant sources, or raising water rates. The council seemed to agree that more information and number crunching will precede any decision as to whatever the next step might be.