Lamar City Administrator, John Sutherland, expressed a concern regarding the performance of some of the city’s newer water meters, installed in 2013. He told the city council that some ‘error reads’ from the performance reports weren’t changing, “going on and on, and we got them over and over.” Two dozen of the individual meter sending units transmits information from individual meters, to four or five collection devices throughout the city. Sutherland said they have been removed from service, but have still been sending out information to the billing office.
Another 59 meters are not working but were programmed and installed several years ago, and have been giving a static reading so there have been no bills issued because there was no information to assess for water use. “There are 59 that nobody got billed for,” Sutherland stated. On top of those 83 combined MTU meters, another report shows 36 other units in the field have malfunctioned. Additional activity print-out reports on performance are showing a start date back to 2005, “But that can’t be correct,” he told the council, “because we only installed these meters in 2013. The city has since begun to replace these bad units. The meters were purchased through the Honeywell Group which had been hired by the city to help reduce utility costs with upgrades to city owned buildings, water infrastructure and electrical devices.
Sutherland said the city staff believes that the problem lies with the sealed battery that powers the devices. They were installed in 2005 and probably sat on the shelf until the city purchased the meters and had them programmed and installed in 2013. The batteries are going dead with a ten year lifespan and are giving either no readings, or an incorrect one. The batteries sell for about $150 each. Lamar Councilman, Kirk Crespin commented, “I would hope there’s a warranty that came with these.” Sutherland explained that there is supposed to be a 10 year warranty on them. Not every household is showing these problems, but the city wants to make sure they have the situation under control so there are no irregular readings in the future. The administrator expressed an opinion that perhaps some used MTU’s were included in the city’s initial delivery. One other problem was discovered that affects only a handful of commercial customers is that their three inch meters were programmed at two inches which will impact their billing with an inaccurate reading. “For as long as they’ve been in, they have not been billed correctly when they were installed in 2013,” he said. Sutherland explained there may be some ‘bill shock’ from customers when they receive their corrected bills and wanted all parties to be aware of what has produced the situation and the steps the city is taking to correct the matter.
By Russ Baldwin
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