Hinesville is working toward improving the way it reads water meters and will soon have a new customer portal website where residents can monitor their water usage.
Matthew Barrow from P.C. Simonton and Associates talked about the public work department’s plan to finish upgrading the city’s water meter system at the Aug. 4 Hinesville city council meeting.
In 2015, the city received a loan of more than $1 million from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to replace and upgrade water meters and the water meter reading system, according to Barrow.
The city operates just under 12,000 water meters and the public works department has already replaced 89 percent with new meters, Barrow said.
"This project will replace that remaining 11 percent so that all water meters within the city are compatible with this new meter reading system," Barrow told the council.
As part of a larger project, Hinesville is upgrading its Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system that allows remote monitoring of water and sewer facilities, according to the agenda. The new meters are being outfitted with transmitters. More than 50 percent of water meters still need the new transmitter and the remaining transmitters will be replaced over the next two years by the public works department.
"This project will replace about 1,800 of those. If the SCADA system comes in under budget, we’re going to take any remaining funds from that portion of the project and replace more transmitters to get as many as we can replaced with this project," Barrow said.
Barrow said that the public works department has been replacing water
meters and transmitters over several years, but by replacing the remaining meters, it will free up some of their budget for the remaining transmitters over two years.
Barrow said the new fixed based meter reading system will replace a system that costs the public works department a significant amount of time in man-hours. The system’s antennas will be on top of water tanks in the city.
"Rather than staff having to go out and read meters, these two towers will periodically throughout every day receive readings from each meter," Barrow said.
He said it currently takes several people multiple days to read meters and the new system will reduce it to one or two people doing it in one day.
Barrow also introduced a new online customer portal residents will be able to use to view their water use and receive messages from the city. Residents also will be able to set up alerts on the portal to help detect leaks.
"If you’re on vacation and you know that you should not have water usage … that all of a sudden you see water consumption at your house, it can alert you if something’s going on and give you a notification," Barrow said.
District 3 Councilwoman Vicky Nelson asked why they will have to buy equipment from the public works budget if the funding runs out.
"What we’re doing is we’re replacing as many — we’re replacing all the meters that are not currently AMR compatible," Barrow said. "And then we’re going to replace as many transmitters as we can with the available funding."
Barrow said the public works department has had a budgeted line item for 10 years for replacing meters and once all of the meters have been replaced, they will then use that funding to pay for replacing the remaining transmitters over the next two years.
City Manager Billy Edwards added that it is the city that is paying for the cost of upgrading the meters and transmitters.
Barrow said that using the GEFA loan to fund the upgrade comes with some principle forgiveness.
"That was the big benefit," he said. "I think this overall GEFA loan for the SCADA upgrades, the meter upgrades and the meter reading system was a little over a million dollars. And of that, $423,000 is principle forgiveness."
If not for the loan, Barrow added, public works would have had to continue replacing the meters on an annual basis.
Barrow then recommended to the council to award bids to HD Supply for purchasing the remaining meters and transmitters at $454,877 and the installation of the fixed based system at $173,870.
Nelson asked about where the individual item costs came from and Barrow replied that HD Supply gave them the prices for the items and that they were at an even better cost than what the city had been purchasing meters for in the past because of the bulk order.
Barrow said that the city uses Sensus meters and in order to purchase them, they have to go through a regional provider.
"And that’s the only supplier that can supply those within this area," he said.
District 4 Councilman Keith Jenkins moved to award the bids to HD Supply and the council voted in favor 4-1, with Nelson opposing.