January 31, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 4

Meter-reading gear aims at saving time

The purchase of new water meter technology will help make the Haines Borough more efficient and represents a step toward expanding metered service to residences on the borough water system, borough officials say.

The borough assembly recently authorized the manager to engage in a $26,000 contract with Ferguson Waterworks for the purchase and installation of new equipment to help make the meter-reading process less time-consuming.

As it stands, the borough’s current electronic meter reader can store only 10 readings at a time, requiring the user to write down each reading on a piece of paper. The data then is entered into the database by the borough accounting clerk.

The appropriation will buy hardware and software for a new reader, which can store more than 1,000 readings. The change will allow the clerk to just plug the hardware into the computer’s USB port and upload the data.

Chief Fiscal Officer Jila Stuart said one of the best parts of the switch is the efficiency for employees who go out and collect the readings.

 “The really cool thing is it has this radio-read capacity so they don’t have to stop the truck, get out of the truck, walk over to where the meter is. It transmits it via radio. They still have to basically get within so many feet of it, but they can just drive up the road and get all the readings,” Stuart said.

Stuart also said the assembly has expressed a desire to move toward metering all customers in the townsite to make charges for water usage more fair.

Currently the borough only meters 200 customers, including businesses and homes served by the Crystal Cathedrals water system before the borough took the utility over in 2010.

“With this new technology it could enable us to meter more customers without more of a time investment in reading them... I think it is a step toward that, but I also think even if we never did meter everyone it’s worth the money just to make it more efficient reading the meters we have now,” Stuart said.

The contract will be paid for with the $20,000 budgeted in the Capital Improvements Program for radio-read equipment. The remaining $6,000 will be split evenly between the water and sewer enterprise funds, with the actual number of water meters and modules purchased dependent on freight costs.