Dunn Moves Ahead With Automated Meter Reading

Plan should pay for itself in benefits.

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If you are a Dunn water customer in about a year and a half you can check your water usage online or check to see if you have a water leak — you’ll get real-time data. This is because the City of Dunn has moved ahead with plans to install smart meters.

The council voted to consider a plan for automated meter reading. The cost would be $1.9 million which, according to figures presented by the consultant the town hired, could pay for itself in direct and indirect benefits in less than seven years.

Meanwhile, a decision on the budget has been delayed until next Tuesday night at 7. The public hearing was held this past Tuesday night. No one spoke during the hearing for or against it.

Andy Honeycutt with MeterSYS went before the board this past Tuesday night to report on his latest findings. He is recommending a system in which two connectors on the city’s water tanks would collect meter reading information and relay it to town hall. The other option was a system in which meter readers rode by people’s homes and read their meters.

Mr. Honeycutt said he’s an independent consultant and that he works for public entities, not providers. He recommended the city go with Ferguson Water Works.

He said the prices came in lower than estimated.

It is recommended that the city take on a 15-year loan with an estimated interest rate of 3.75 percent. That’s a payment of $206,000 a year. With direct benefits, such as not needing meter readers or not paying an estimated $60,000 a year to replace 150 broken meters, and indirect benefits, such as cut offs could be done online, Mr. Honeycutt estimated the city would have a cost benefit of $275,825 a year.

He said his company would make sure everything works and train city staff.

“You need to get in, have a deployment plan, get in and get out,” he said.

There is a 10-year warranty followed by a five-year prorated warranty.

“By my calculations it’s a 6.63-year return on investment. Before the warranty ends, it should be paid for,” council member Buddy Maness said.

As this process begins, customers will be updated throughout by different mediums in which plans are spelled out in easy-to-understand terms. They should be able to check their go live date online.

Dunn Finance Director Mark Stephens said he will send out bids to banks which should come back in July. The next step is approval by the Local Government Commission.

“We’re looking at an August start date,” he said.

“This is really the first major step tonight,” Mayor Oscar Harris said.

“I think it is important to point out this basically pays for itself,” Mr. Maness said. “A lot of our meters were getting to the point they needed to be replaced anyway.”

“I think we’ll be giving them (Dunn water customers) better customer service,” Mr. Stephens said.

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