Users of Meaford's municipal water service will soon have new meters installed that will significantly reduce the amount of time that staff need to spend reading meters.
The majority of water meters currently in use were installed in the early 1990s and are reaching the end of their expected service lives, and as Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman noted in his report to council on July 24, technology has changed.
“In 1990, the Municipality of Meaford implemented a program of universal water metering on all services in the municipal distribution system. At that time, Neptune water meters and associated hardware and software were selected by the Municipality. The water meters selected were the best available technology. Analog meters were paired with an ARB pin connection reader, which was mounted on an outside wall of the property,” read the report.
That configuration allowed municipal staff to collect a meter reading without having to enter the property, and the use of a handheld meter reading device eliminated any manual data entry by the meter reader.
“The analog meter reading was then downloaded to Neptune's software and then uploaded into the Municipality’s Keystone accounting software. This enabled Financial Services to generate the 2,500 plus water bills with little to no data manipulation,” noted Chapman.
Chapman told council that meter technology has advanced since the early 1990s, and as the new radio frequency (RF) meters have become more affordable, they have been installed into all new homes ,and for replacement of failed meters in recent years.
“Currently 28 percent of the Municipality's residential water meters are Neptune RF meters. Other than the Leith System, these meters are not installed in a specific location within the Meaford Water System, (but instead) based on where homes have been built, renovated, or where there have been failures,” noted Chapman in his report.
According to the report, the full implementation of radio frequency meters will allow municipal staff to read all meters in a single morning without having to get out of the truck or to walk onto water customers' property, reducing the time required from 540 hours per year to roughly 72.
Given the number of Neptune brand meters already installed in the municipality, staff made a rare request to council for approval of a single-source award of a contract to replace all municipal water meters to Neptune Technology Group in the amount of $823,354.96, including a 10% contingency allowance and the Municipality’s nonrefundable allocation of H.S.T.
“We didn't go out to tender for this. We are recommending that it be awarded to Neptune,” Chapman told council. “That being said, we did a lot of work on the back end from staff's perspective before getting to this stage to make sure that we were making the right call on this.”
Chapman explained that switching to an alternate brand of meter would necessitate the replacement of all meters in the municipality including those replaced over the past seven years with Neptune meters, which would significantly increase the overall cost of the project.
“About 600 – 700 of the existing meters are already these Neptune RF meters, so they won't need to be replaced, but if we went to any other company we would have to swap out all 2,600 – 2,700 meters that we've got,” Chapman explained. “The other issue of course is that everything from the readers themselves, and all of the software on the back end are all tied to Neptune, so if we went to a different company, we'd have to replace all of that as well.”
Council approved the recommendations from staff, and Chapman told council that it is expected that the water meter replacement project should be completed by the end of February.
“The Municipality and Neptune Technology Group will jointly promote and implement the residential meter replacement program. The Municipality will be responsible for the initial advertising of the program and providing affected parties with a Notice of Project regarding the program and what is required from each property owner. Neptune will be responsible for the scheduling and installation of the new meters,” Chapman advised council in his report.