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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575

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City may change water meters

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Utility meter readers in Martinsville eventually may not have to get out of their trucks to see how much water and electricity customers use monthly.

The city is beginning to examine whether it would be possible to afford and install an automated metering infrastructure (AMI).

Various types of AMI are available. They include systems that enable utility workers to wave a wand toward meters near them to collect data as well as devices that use radio frequencies to transmit data from a meter to a centrally located device or a vehicle passing by, according to websites.

Benefits of using AMI include more accurate readings and more efficiency because workers may not have to go onto private property to read meters and/or find and open meter boxes in the ground, the websites show.

The city sent energy services companies requests for proposals to examine Martinsville’s water and electric systems and “give an opinion on what would best fit our needs and how to fund it,” said Utilities Director Dennis Bowles.

Despite not having cost figures yet, Bowles said the systems are expensive and the city might not be able to afford one.

“The only driving force” behind considering AMI, he said, is that outdated water meters in the city must be replaced in the near future — regardless of whether they are replaced with the modern type or the traditional type.

In his roughly 40 years with the city, Bowles remembers both electric and water meters being replaced only once, but he did not recall exactly when.

He estimated that many meters in use in the city are at least 30 years old. At that age, he said, they are getting worn out and might not accurately measure utility use.

AMI might benefit utility customers, too, said Mayor Kim Adkins. For instance, if a water line on someone’s property breaks, or someone accidentally leaves a faucet on for a long time without realizing it, the city might be able to figure out there is a problem before the customer’s bill skyrockets, she said.

The city has budgeted $100,000 this fiscal year to replace water meters, but none of that money has been spent yet, according to Bowles.

He hopes to have the AMI proposals by the end of this month, he said.

Depending on the cost, the city might be able to afford to install AMI in phases “so it won’t be such a burden” financially, Adkins said.


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