The project was driven by a group of city officials and utility management who mounted a citywide effort to improve their city’s water and gas metering.
Stephen Nunnery, Zachary’s chief administrator said, “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.”
The 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, researched technology advances with major manufacturers and suppliers to understand product offerings and advantages. Driven by Zachary’s advancement to the second fastest growth 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. 6000 Master Meter DIALOG 3G Wireless RF AMR water meters and 3000 gas meters equipped with Master Meter Universal AMR compatible radios were selected and purchased for the city wide network from Master Meter, Inc. of Mansfield, Texas.
The water meters have DIALOG 3G Wireless RF radio permanently sealed in the register with its antenna requiring no external wires, powered by lithium batteries with an average 10-year plus life. The meter self activates after the first cubic foot of water passes through the meter which are pre-programmed at the factory needing no on-site programming, so they install like a standard water meter.
After the collection of the meter reads from both water and gas the transfer of the data goes to the city’s billing software. The new unexpected data collection safety features involve the weather and dogs, which have a hard time making a difference in the read time now. The meter reader is in a city vehicle and protected from both.
Davezac had his staff install the system to understand how it was installed, make sure other little things were done correctly and completely and finally they would have the product expertise in their own group. “No surprises for the future of the system,” said Davezac.
All of the issues that Zachary’s program had addressed were realized. There are now 5,870 water meters and 3,210 gas meters installed since the project started in mid-October 2003 and there is a noticeable difference in the number of water leaks they have found helping residents, as well as the city. These efficiencies have created less system water loss and with the more accurate DIALOG 3G meters Zachary has found that the meter recorded use of water has increased, resulting in more billable revenue.
That has lead to a higher level of state funding for Zachary because it is based on use of water.
Before they started the project they had four billing cycles and it took two to three people about a week to read just the older water meters. This summer they will convert to two billing cycles with one person doing the reading for both water and gas one day per cycle.
Everyone agrees that the program is going very well because it has excellent contributing members for all program aspects. Without the support of the Zachary City Council this couldn’t have been funded.
The hard upfront work and continued follow through of Davezac and Nunnery has helped sustained the program.
The combination of the technology, a funding blessing for being more effective, a long-term labor savings and revenue increase with the utility with a municipal team that has made this happen will continue to pay off for the city of Zachary for years to come.