The City’s water rates are set at a level where the City can cover it’s cost of producing water, transporting it to your house and handling the necessary meter reading and billing costs. Anything we can do to reduce our costs at any point in this production and consumption cycle will save us, and more importantly our customers, money.
Over the last two decades we’ve consistently invested in new technology in the area of meter reading because meter reading has a well deserved reputation for being a labor hog. Water line breaks can be labor hogs too, but they bring direct value to the customer so we consider that time well spent.
As you might imagine it can take a long time to physically walk the City reading water meters on a house by house basis so we’ve tried to stay current on technology advances. You can’t run a water system without meter reading but the time it takes to read the meters doesn’t have any inherent customer value so we consider less as much more.
That’s why we’ve been transitioning the old fashioned meters to phone line meters and now to radio meters. With each upgrade in technology we save time, and in this case, time is money.
Here’s a summary from Gene Roberts that he scripted to answer a resident’s questions about the status of water meter reading in Kent. Gene starts with a reference to the budget that has been set up to buy more modern meter reading technology. As you can see there is nothing cheap about upgrading the meter technology which is why we’ve been spreading it out over many years.
The 1995 Budget reported:
In 2009 a concerted effort started to upgrade the current inventory of manual read water meters to radio read meters. This process does not require removal of the meter if it is found to have been replaced in 1995 or is determined to be defective or reading an incorrect volume of water. The process does require removal of the current backflow meter read heads and replacement with an updated head which is radio compatible and installation of the radio transmitters. Once fully deployed the radio read system will require one staff one day to read all meters in the City which equates to again gaining one additional employee to start to decrease the back log of work in the Central Maintenance Division.
The cost for the conversion from phone read to radio read is the cost of the meter head, the radio transmitter and staff time to convert totaling less than $100 per location on average. For the approximate 800 customers remaining on the phone read system this equates to $80,000 of which the City has received a NOPEC grant for $73,162 to offset the cost of the remaining phone read meters replacement. The cost of the phones read systems that have been previously replaced have been spread out in the budget from year 2001 through 2008 by using maintenance funds and additional funds provided of approximately $65,000 per year for 2009 through 2011. The total cost estimated to complete the radio read conversion for all users is $660,000 spread out over 10-years at an average of $66,000 per year.