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Automated meter installation begins

February 19, 2013

New state-of-the-art automated electric and water meters are well on their way to the homes and businesses of West Point’s water and light customers, whom Water and Light Department officials say will benefit from the change.
Last March the West Point Board of Mayor and Selectmen approved an Energy Performance Contract with the company Siemens to replace the old meters with new digital ones, and the Water and Light Department has now started the process of installing the new meters at many locations around town.
Water and Light Superintendent Dwight Prisock said already 10 automated electric meters and 10 automated water meters have been installed at various residences and commercial businesses throughout the city of West Point. Prisock said these 20 meters were recently installed and are being utilized to test out the new communication system needed to link the electric and water measurements back to the West Point Data Center and Water and Light Department.
In the communication system a transmitter sits atop the city’s south water tower and the north water treatment facility. This radio system “talks” to the new meters, and from there it communicates back to the Data Center. From the Data Center the electric and water meters will be read without anyone ever having to walk across a lawn again to manually ready them. The automated electric meters can also be disconnected from the Data Center or the Water and Light Department. Meters can be disconnected for nonpayment or if someone is moving out of their residence in the city limits.
The automated water meters will still have to be manually turned off, but if a customer unknowingly has a large water leak at their home the Water and Light Department can detect that through the meter and will be able to inform the customer of the leak.
Prisock said all of the 10 new digital meters that were tested answer back to the transmitter, but none of the new water meters answer back so far. Sensus, the company that distributes the meters, will have to resolve that problem, which Prisock believes deals with configuration.
“That’s the reason we just installed ten – to get the kinks out and get the base system working,” Prisock said.
The locations where the water meters are being tested are places the Water and Light Department felt would be difficult for the communication system to work in. Through this method the limitations of the communication system is tested, and it allows officials to pinpoint any reasons why the transmitter and meter aren’t communicating with each other. This way officials will be able to correct the problem and get the meters working properly.
“We believe if they can get those working then all of them will work,” he said.
The old water meters, on average, were measuring only about 85 percent of water used, but the new water meters are expected to measure at least 97 percent. Since the new meters will be reading with a lot more accuracy customers may see an increase of a few dollars on their water bill in the next few months. The old electric meters already measured around 97 percent so their will be very little if any change to customers’ electricity bill. Prisock said the new automated meters are guaranteed to read at 100 percent accuracy for 15 years.
The testing process should be complete in about two weeks after which time the Water and Light Department plans to change out all the electric meters in the city over a six week period. Meter-based work may have to be conducted on some commercial meters that are hard-wired and do not have sockets. Prisock said it will probably take about six months to replace all the water meters.
The automated meters “will make meter readings more timely, we can maintain constant intervals on the billing cycle and we will be able to shift people to a different cycle if that cycle is more convenient for them as far as making a payment,” Prisock said. “Customers can also prepay, which probably is one of the best features we’ll be able to give people.”
To do that the Water and Light Department will have to change out its billing software, and the change is scheduled for August so customers interested in prepaying will have to wait several more months before they can do so.

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