The city of Zachary, La., installed a new AMR Drive-By System in 2003 that earned them an international award presented by Public Technology, Inc. for 2003 Solutions Winner, Small Energy Category designed to highlight technology implementations at the local government level aimed at improving governance and service delivery in their jurisdiction.
The project was driven by a group of city officials and utility management who mounted a city-wide effort to improve Zachary’s water and gas metering. Stephen Nunnery, Zachary’s chief administrator, stated, “Chris Davezac, our utilities director, and myself started about five years ago to work on finding replacement meters. We discussed and asked for quotes from some of the largest meter manufacturers including our present supplier, Master Meter. We had a full list of features and benefits for the city that we needed in the water and gas system.”
Their list included:
- Automatic Meter Reading System-AMR;
- Reduction in meter reading time and manpower;
- Highly reliable and accurate meters;
- High level of technology advancement; and
- Compatible meter data transfer to billing process.
Both Davezac and Nunnery investigated other utility locations and researched technology advances with major manufacturers and suppliers to understand product offerings and advantages. Driven by Zachary’s advancement to the second fastest growing community in Louisiana, they knew that they needed a system to expand rapidly involving no complex technology issues.
As the request for bid moved forward, the City Council support was very helpful. Six thousand Master Meter DIALOG 3G® Wireless RF® AMR water meters and 3,000 gas meters equipped with Master Meter Universal® AMR compatible radios were selected and purchased for the city-wide network from Master Meter, Inc., Mansfield, Texas.
The water meters have DIALOG 3G Wireless RF radio permanently sealed in the register that have antennas requiring no external wires, and are powered by lithium batteries with an average life of 10 plus years. The meter self activates after the first cubic foot of water passes through. They are pre-programmed at the factory and need no additional on-site programming, so they install like a standard water meter.
After the meter reads from both water and gas have been collected, the transfer of the data goes directly to the city’s billing software. The meter reader is in a city vehicle and protected from unexpected data collection obstacles such as weather and dogs.
In order to have a better understanding of the system, Davezac asked his staff to install the system and make sure everything was done correctly and completely.
All issues that Zachary’s program addressed were realized. Since the project started in mid-October 2003, there have been 5,870 water meters and 3,210 gas meters installed, and there is a noticeable difference in the number of water leaks. This has created less system water loss, and with the more accurate DIALOG 3G meters, Zachary found that the meter recorded use of water has increased resulting in more accurate billing and additional revenue. The results have led to higher state funding for the city as well.
Before the city started the project it had four billing cycles and it took two to three people about a week to read the old water meters. This summer, Zachary will convert to two billing cycles with one person doing the reading for both water and gas one day per cycle.
*Photo Caption: Left to right: Stephen Nunnery, chief administrator; Charlene Smith, mayor; Amanda Castello, inspector director; and Chris Davezac, utilities director.
Stephen Thomas is marketing manager for Master Meter, Inc. Mansfield, Texas. He can be reached at 800/765-6518, or by e-mail at email@example.com.