— By BRIAN SMITH
A pilot program to begin implementation of an automated metering infrastructure for Weatherford utility residents was approved by the Municipal Utility Board Thursday afternoon.
The program, which will be phased in over the next three years, will begin with about 300 new homes near Weatherford High School, according to Director of Water Utilities James Hotopp. The pilot program will last about six months, which will give city staff a chance to integrate the program into the billing system, see how it works and to fix any glitches that may come along before full implementation.
The $100,000 for the pilot program was approved last year by the board, according to Assistant City Manager Sharon Hayes. City officials negotiated contracts with both product and software manager Sensus and the distributor Aqua Metrics, Hotopp stated in a staff report.
The new meters will allow for time savings as far as reading meters, which will be able to be done with the click of a button all across the city, giving a major increase in efficiency. Over time, other improvements would allow for letting customers know and be able to monitor high usage, detect leaks, electric outage notification, on demand readings electronically.
“We’re not going to unveil everything the system can do during the pilot program,” Hotopp said.
Clint Arnold with Aqua Metrics said the cities of Arlington and Bridgeport are using a similar system right now. Arnold said in the event of a major emergency, the new meters, which have no moving parts and are completely “green,” could still be read manually.
Full implementation of the program is expected to cost about $5 million, which is scheduled to be funded through Utility fund reserves and the city’s current rate structure, according to a staff report.
Hotopp also gave an update on Lake Weatherford. Some residents had noticed a drop in lake levels in recent weeks. Hotopp said, as usual during the summer, the city in late July turned off the pumps in an attempt to cut costs. The pumps were expected to remain off until the start of the new fiscal year in October.
Hotopp told the board that because of recent winds and higher temperatures, the lake level has dropped at a faster rate than anticipated. Because of that, the pumps will be turned on in mid-September, about two weeks ahead of schedule.
“We had planned on turning the pumps back on when the lake level reached 888 (feet),” Hotopp said. “The present lake level is 888.79, so if we don’t get some rain in the next few weeks, we’re planning on turning the pumps on in the second or third week of September.”
Hotopp said the last time the lake was completely full was in April 2012.