The project to provide a brand new automated water meter-reading system to the city — in the early stages of installation — is already having a significant impact on one local business.

The project to provide a brand new automated water meter-reading system to the city — in the early stages of installation — is already having a significant impact on one local business.

Mills Machine Co. Inc., 201 N. Oklahoma, has just been given the rather sizable job of cutting a hole in each of the city's water meter covers being directed to its shop.

“The job just kind of fell in our lap,” owner Chuck Mills said.

City employees at the Shawnee Public Works Department were hand-cutting a hole into each individual meter cover, Mills explained, and they quickly realized doing it that way was going to take them forever.

Since Mills' machining company is much better suited for quickly punching holes into all those cast iron lids, the city turned to the local business for help.

The impromptu move turned out to not only help the city, literally, but also helps the city economically — by keeping money in the community.

The former mayor said he's working to keep prices as low as he can; he knows how important the project is to the city.

Though it's not Mills' typical business endeavor, he said the job itself is pretty basic.

“We make drilling tools and bits, typically,” he said. “But sometimes there are opportunities to help local businesses.”

Making holes

Mills said his employees could've drilled the holes, but the company has a plasma cutter that can do the job nicely.

“We can turn them out pretty quickly,” he said. “We've done about 500 so far.”

He said the unexpected project was well-timed, as it has actually become a good training tool for one of his new hires.

“Our new guy is getting some great experience with operating the machine,” Mills said.

Mills said each approximately two-inch diameter hole is needed for the placement of an antenna.

“Since nothing can stick up above ground level, there's a smooth silver disc on top, with the plastic antenna aimed downward, underneath the meter lid,” he said.

Though Mills is unsure exactly how many meter lids are ultimately going to end up in his downtown facility, the ones that do are certain to leave with a large piercing.

Installation

The automated water meter installation will continue through the city for the next several months — into December or possibly January depending on the weather, Second Sight Systems crew member Michael Reddick said recently.

Reddick said residents could see a handful of crew members working on Saturdays, as well.

Installation crews are wearing neon yellow shirts with the Second Sight Systems logo on them and carrying identification issued by the city.

Residences next on the short list to get a new meter will receive a yellow postcard in the mail beforehand. Once the notice arrives, it states meters in the area could be replaced within the next couple weeks.

“There may be a brief interruption of water service for a short period of time (15-20 minutes),” the notice reads.

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

Shawnee Utility Director Brad Schmidt could not be reached as of press time due to a water main break situation behinds Lowe's.

Also, City Manager Chance Allison was unavailable for comment.