Citywide installation of an automatic water meter reading (AMR) system is about to begin. In May Shawnee City Commissioners OK'd a clean water SRF loan agreement from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, securing funds to implement a city-wide automated water meter-reading system.

Citywide installation of an automatic water meter reading (AMR) system is about to begin.

In May Shawnee City Commissioners OK'd a clean water SRF loan agreement from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, securing funds to implement a city-wide automated water meter-reading system.

Instead of monthly manual meter reads, the new system will collect multiple remote reads per day, allowing for more accurate billing, leak detection and less manpower needed to operate it. Customers also will have access to daily information about their water use.

Soon-to-be City Manager Chance Allison said the loan is for 15 years and repayment would begin likely September of 2020 — one year after construction is finished. The contract, awarded to Core and Main, was for $4,745,237.65.

What to expect

Changing out all of the meters is estimated to take about a year.

Residents will get a letter/postcard no less than one to two weeks before installation, Utility Director Brad Schmidt said.

“During installation contractors working on behalf of the City of Shawnee will interrupt water service,” he said. “Before leaving the site, crews will test the new meter by running about 10 gallons of water from an exterior hose or faucet.”

Schmidt said door hangers will be left at the main entrance to the property informing the resident or business owner of the status of the visit — installation complete; installation pending; water was being used; or unable to access water meter.

Schmidt said contractors will be supervised by city staff. “They will carry proper identification and have successfully completed a comprehensive background check,“ he said. “Contractor vehicles will also be clearly marked.”

Background

During the Shawnee Municipal Authority meeting in December City Commissioners filed an application for the loan to replace its existing system.

Jay Updike, with Holloway, Updike and Bellen, Inc. Engineering Consulting Firm, offered explanation of how the automated system will work and what the advantages are of implementing an automated meter reading system.

Updike said the new meter system is a great customer service, it's more accurate and it's better for quickly discovering household leaks.

Going automated means a reduction in manpower (to read them), less wear-and-tear on the new meters (which have no moving parts inside), and reduction in water loss, Updike said.

The system is designed so each meter can share data with a handful of towers that would then send the data to the city.

Meters would last as long as the batteries sealed inside, Updike said — typically about 15 to 20 years.

Customers will have much more awareness as to how much activity is going on; the level of consumption can be checked online at any time, Updike said. I the same way, leaks can be noted and red-flagged easily.

Without knowing exactly how many meters Shawnee has to replace, Updike estimates the cost to be between $5 million and $8 million to update the system throughout the city.

He said most communities that have implemented such a system have financed the improvement through the OWRB.

The addition of new monthly meter maintenance fee ($6 for residents and a tiered fee for commercial, based on meter size) that was imposed in March serves as a fundraising effort to offset the cost of upgrading the city's meter system.

“This fee allows us to roll out an advanced meter-reading infrastructure,” Allison said. “We would be able to read meters from City Hall.”

Interim City Manager Eric Benson said when he was city manager in Enid 12 years ago that community went through installation.

“Just the recouping of lost water that was going through homes but not being registered amounted to about 26 percent,” he said. “We added 26 percent to Enid's water consumption payments because they could account for (the water more efficiently).”

He said that enabled full payoff of the system within three and a half years instead of the seven originally intended.

“Additionally, the city was able to lay the backbone of IT infrastructure that allowed a free internet service through all of the downtown area,” he said, “in fact all of the areas that were served by a group of meters exceeding a set amount, because of the traffic required to send that data.”

Some cities do that for free, while others choose to charge for that, he said.

“You currently don't have that capability in town — unless you want to use your cellular data, which you have to pay for,” he said.

The opportunity is a tremendous asset, Benson said.

He said he believes there are enough vertical structures in town. Benson said he made an unofficial tabulation of the necessary transmission nodes to build the system.

“This is a tremendous improvement from what you currently have,” he said. “It's what your citizens deserve to have.”

Alan Brooks said many communities choose financing the upgrade through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program.

“It's the same program that we've talked about relative to the wastewater management system improvements,” he said.

The low-interest loan, Brooks said, given 15-year financing, would have a rate of about two and a half percent.

“The Water Board is very comfortable financing these,” he said.

They understand the benefits it can provide and it tends to pay for itself, Brooks said.

For more information, visit shawneeok.org or call (405) 878-1560.