May 11, 2005

City of Warren, Ohio converts to advanced AMR system

The city of Warren, Ohio is a city that is no stranger to change. Located in the Mahoning Valley, Warren is near the border of Pennsylvania and an hour from Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Warren is Trumbell County’s largest city and county seat and is positioned in the economic center of the medical, automotive and steel markets.
Warren is the headquarters for Delphi Packard Electric Systems and has eight colleges in close proximity to round out its diversity. Founded in 1798 and named after Moses Warren, a surveyor, the Warren Water Department serves more than 70,000 residents.
The city of Warren runs along the banks of the Mahoning River and has all the satisfaction and charm of a small town with the excitement of a big city.
Formally know as the Festival City, Warren earned this claim to fame when it hosted continuous festivals throughout the year. The city has managed the need for change over the years, keeping Warren a great place to live.

Need for change

Bob Davis, executive director for the city of Warren’s Water Department, is responsible for all utility services.
Formerly the superintendent for Water Treatment, Davis holds a Class Four license and knows his way around all aspects of a water utility. The city of Warren had been using Sensus meters for more than 40 years, completing their last total meter change out in 1985.
The city was updating its meters to the Sensus ECRII from a failing Rockwell TTR reading system. Additionally, the commercial meters installed in 1985 followed the mindset of the time. Warren installed downsized turbines instead of compounds and, in doing so, traded low flow meter accuracy for the difference in meter costs.
Davis knew his water system needed a change and because of his progressive nature, that change would encompass leading-edge metering practices and AMR technology. Having managed a utility that used Neptune meters earlier in his career, he was familiar with Neptune.
When Andy Shupe, president of Pennsylvania Municipal Consultants, and Bob Scheidemantel, business development manager for Neptune contacted Davis to schedule a consultative review meeting approached him, Davis agreed.

Meter analysis

In September 2002, Davis met with Shupe and Scheidemantel to hear a proposal for an economic analysis of Warren’s installed base of industrial, commercial, and institutional meters and metering operations using Neptune’s SEER (Statistical Evaluation for Enhancement of Revenue) analysis.
After a short review period, Davis agreed to move forward with the analysis. Neptune’s SEER analysis projected a substantial increase from unrealized revenue.
According to Davis, he thought the report was good; but the added revenue seemed too hard to believe. He had 48 of his large meters tested by a third party to validate Neptune’s findings. The actual field-test results validated Neptune’s findings with SEER; however, the results could not account for the inaccuracies at low flow because of the misapplied turbine meters. The challenge was to prove that compounds would make the difference in revenue projections.
With Davis’ permission, 3- and 4-in. compound meters were installed to replace the turbine meters on apartment building and dormitory applications.
After several months, comparative tests showed more than a 20% increase in annual revenue would be realized through the enhanced low flow sensitivity of compound meters versus turbine meters. Davis still wanted to conduct his own due- diligence, so he and several of his staff members made field trips to see competitive meter installations. Not only was Davis satisfying his own analytical mind but also he knew that any changes would be closely reviewed and would impact the city’s water and sewage treatment revenue for years. There was no margin for error and only the best meters should be approved for Warren’s Water Department.

Recommendations taken

The consultant’s recommendation, backed by the SEER analysis, was for Warren to enter into a full scale ICI meter changeout followed by an upgrade of 23,000 residential meters. Because of the steady increase in water and sewer treatment costs, Davis was convinced that the city needed to adopt this recommendation and conduct a review of the ICI applications to ensure compound meters were properly applied where low-to-high flow conditions were prevalent. The recommendation included an AMR upgrade to Neptune’s “hybrid” mobile and targeted fixed network ARB Utility Management Systems technology, including E-Coder solid state absolute encoders, R900 RF MIUs, EZNet targeted fixed network using fixed network EZGate data collectors, and MRX920 (EZDrivePLUS) mobile systems.
The approval process didn’t stop here because there was still the technology question. Davis wanted all the benefits of a fixed-based system if he planned to conduct a total meter change out. Davis and his manager, Rick Griffing, elected to visit locations where various AMR technologies were being used.
They visited the Neptune factory with side visits to several utilities to see Neptune’s new solid state E-Coder in operation as well as the MRX920 and EZNet “hybrid” mobile and targeted fixed network reading system technology. With the due diligence performed by Davis and his staff, they were able to make a valuable comparison of the technology available in the marketplace. Davis was impressed with the flexibility of the Neptune system. He was convinced that targeted fixed network technology for his commercial meters and E-Coder and mobile reading technology for the residential meters would provide Warren with all the meter data necessary to be proactive with their customers and optimize their AMR investment.

Decision made

After reviewing the results of the SEER analysis, Davis decided to change out the large meters first.
According to Davis, “with the proper sizing and use of compound meters, our large meter program will stimulate unrealized water and sewer revenue and in turn help us fund our small meter change out project.”
Davis and his staff finalized the specifications and plans for a large meter project. Warren’s specifications focused on three key elements:

  • The system had to be comprehensive, scalable, and employ an absolute encoder that could produce the value added data provided by the E-Coder and that could be deployed using a “hybrid” approach (a combination of mobile and targeted fixed network system technologies);
  • The meters had to comply with ANSI/NSF 61 Standards; and
  • The compound meters had to have the best low flow sensitivity (1/8 gpm on 2- to 3-in. sizes).

Warren’s bid process was completed in late 2003. After close review, EAP, a Neptune distributor, was awarded the contract to provide and install 1,200 Neptune commercial meters ranging from 1- to 10-in., equipped with high resolution E-Coders, R900 RF MIUs, an MRX920 mobile meter reading system and ten Neptune EZGate fixed network data collectors. EAP began installation in mid-July 2004 and was scheduled to complete as of presstime.
“When completed, Warren will be able to chart and track time-of-use data on our high volume customers as well as detect leaks, backflow, and tamper occurrences on both commercial and residential service lines,” Davis stated.

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