City OKs $2.7M deal to meter gas, water

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 26, 2004

[2/26/04]Water and gas meters that will beam readings to a receiver in a passing vehicle will be installed citywide over the next year, replacing the need for human meter readers.

“This is the wave of the future,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said Wednesday as city officials approved the $2.7 million purchase.

The new radio meters will be installed at nearly 10,000 homes and businesses, the money is coming from $5.8 million borrowed in 2003 and will be repaid from the budget of the city-owned utility companies.

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City Engineer Garnet Van Norman said the work being done with Sensus Metering Systems of Raleigh, N.C., should begin in mid-March and be completed in about 12 months. Van Norman said that work will include installing about 9,800 water meters, 7,800 gas meters and relighting pilots at homes after shutting off gas meters.

The meters will work by sending out a radio signal to a laptop computer that gathers usage numbers. The laptop can “read” the meters from a truck driving past homes and businesses.

The meters are powered by a battery with a 20-year life expectancy and are active only when the laptop sends a signal to the meter “requesting” information, Van Norman said.

He said residents will be notified before work begins at their homes or businesses. Water and gas will be shut off for about an hour to change out meters, and city workers will be available after hours to relight pilots when needed.

Van Norman said the biggest benefits to the city and taxpayers are more accurate readings and lower costs. Today, the city contracts out meter reading to a private service for about $50,000 a month.

With the new electronic radio meters, it will take two employees to take readings citywide. With the lower labor costs, it will take about 4 1/2 years to recoup the investment.

“Nobody’s going to be coming in your yards anymore, and we will have no more inaccurate readings,” Leyens said.

Last year, the city fired a private company contracted to read gas and water meters after an investigation determined meter readers had been estimating usage. When bills were mailed, several customers complained that amounts were unusually high despite a mild winter.

That company was replaced last May by American Meter Services, and complaints have declined.

The city actually began replacing old meters with the new electronic radio meters about five years ago, but those meters have never been activated. Van Norman said that because meters were replaced as needed, the new meters are scattered across town and there is no accurate count of how many are in place.

Residents can tell the difference between older meters and the radio meters by looking for a gray wire that serves as an antenna for the radio function.

In other matters:

Along with Main Street officials, presented float trophies for Saturday’s Mardi Gras Parade to Boy Scout Troop 638, Ameristar, Rainbow Casino and the World Brew Krewe of Delta, La.

Declared an emergency for repairs to a collapsed 18-inch sewer line at Chambers Street at Stout Bayou.

Approved an increase of $8,253 to the cost of the addition at the Kings Community Center. The increase brings the total cost to $172,753.

Authorized the City Clerk to advertise for sealed bids for the Bazinsky Road Ballfield parking lot.

Approved a $300 full-page advertisement for the Miss Mississippi Pageant.

Approved a $1,600 supplement payment to the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound.

Accepted recommendation from the Historic Preservation Commission to designate Annabelle, 501 Speed St., as a Vicksburg Landmark.

Approved free use of Kings Community Center for a summer youth camp program sponsored by the Vicksburg Family Development Services.

Approved a $186 credit for sewer charges to a resident on Porters Chapel Road who was being charged for sewer, but is not connected to the city sewer system. Sewer charges are based on water usage, but homes in some areas are connected to non-municipal sewer systems.

Vacated and closed portions of Crawford and Commons streets at Horizon Casino and Hotel.

Appointed Janice Carter as Municipal Court clerk and Sue Robinson, Brenda Lee and Keysha McDonald as deputy court clerks.

Adopted a resolution giving notice of intentions to amend the city’s charter. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said changes will remove sections no longer applicable because of changes in state law and update the description of the city’s legal boundaries. The charter has not been amended since 1990.

Entered a contract with the State Fire Academy for aircraft firefighting and airport firefighting training.

Approved spending $50 for refreshments to be served at a job readiness workshop at 1 p.m. March 11 at the Jackson Street Community Center.

Approved a variance request from Wyatt’s Gym, 3520 Manor Drive, for a new parking lot.

Allocated $19,500 for the 807 Clinic.

Approved advertising for Main Street to be paid out of Main Street funds.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday at City Hall.