Statesville Approves Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI) Project Savings of $900,000
The City of Statesville is moving forward in updating the technology that reads meter usage for the city’s electric, sewer and water services. The Automated Meter Infrastructure project is expected to save the city $900,000 a year after it is implemented, according to the city. It would cost roughly $6.7 million to implement the new system over a 12-month period. The motion carried 7-1, with John Staford voting against it.
“This is a big step forward for the City of Statesville and its residents. After three years of testing, we have found a product and vendor that works well and will help us move our meter reading and utilities as a whole, into the future,” City Manager Ron Smith said. “Customer experiences will be made easier, and will improve overall, while city operations will be more efficient and effective. My thanks to the city council for their diligence and for trusting staff with this meaningful project.”
The automated system allows for remote readings of utility usage instead of relying on manual readings. The city had been running a pilot project with the devices since September of last year but will expand now with the city council’s approval of a measure to loan money from within the city’s departments to complete the process. John Maclaga, the city’s electric utilities director and Smith said the updating of the city’s infrastructure will save money in the long run and don’t see it forcing the city to raise rates to cover it.
“It allows us to do our work for cheaper and put downward pressure on rates. And we can offer other capabilities that we couldn’t offer with the existing meters,” Maclaga said.
Maclaga also said there are benefits for the consumer as they’ll have a way of keeping a closer eye on their usage of the various utilities through a customer portal, which could allow pre-paying of bills if implemented by the city as well. Customers can set alarm points to receive texts or emails when their usage hits certain customer-identified thresholds so they can better manage their utility use, according to the city’s presentation Monday.
Other benefits Maclaga pointed out in his presentation to the council were instant and automatic outage notifications, and when power was restored. The city could also remotely connect and disconnect power remotely.
The AMI system also has a tamper alarm as well as a “hot meter base detection” alarm for electric meters that become too hot. Maclaga said during the pilot project they found one such location and coordinated with the customer to get it fixed, eliminating a potential fire hazard. The AMI system could also help detect water leaks when there is constant usage over a 24-hour period. It would also reduce the city’s need to budget roughly $50,000 in forgiveness funds as issues with leaks would be found sooner.
One of the few downsides of the new system the city put forward was a loss of three jobs created through the old system. The city said they would do their best to move those employees into other departments if possible.
The city said at the current rates of the utilities, it was expected the savings would pay back the cost of the new system after eight years. The city expects $380,000 in savings from the change for electric, mostly from reduced losses in the current system. The water department is expected to save $245,000 a year. Smith said the city would end up paying out more to hire more workers and vehicles for them to drive to read the manual meters if they hadn’t accepted the new system.
Source: Gibson, Ben. “AMI project approved with savings projected in next decade” 22 December 2020, Statesville Record Landmark Townnews | statesville.com.