Saline Considering New Water Meters
Saline is considering if and when to replace its water meters city-wide. While no action was taken on the proposal that was presented by Director of Public Works Larry Sirls at the last City Council meeting, the idea certainly is in the works and a more formal proposal will be introduced at the next meeting.
“We’re still in the discussion phase of what that looks like, but it is very much the advice of myself and Director Sirls that we modernize our water meter system,” City Manager Colleen O’Toole said. “We’re talking about collecting data in real time, [having] an instant communication tool with residents and take service to another level in terms of what information is available to us, and to residents.”
Saline’s aging water meters are analog and subject to increasing inaccuracy as they age simply from the regular wear and tear of the locomotion of their parts. And just like any other form of infrastructure, they can break. The problem, Sirls says, is that when a problem does develop in Saline’s water mains it can take weeks, perhaps months before the issue is detected and fixed.
The new system Sirls is recommending would be entirely electronic and constantly monitoring the system, allowing the city the luxury to respond to smaller, and therefore less expensive problems, preventing potential accidents, injuries, and surprise multi-thousand dollar bills for individual households and businesses.
According to Sirls, it takes four city employees three days to read every single meter in the city every three months. Then after that, the data needs to be processed and checked with a long series of steps, costing about two and a half weeks and $36,000 to the taxpayer. With the meters directly feeding usage data to the city, there would be no need for the city to check anyone’s meter, unless something seriously broke.
One thing that most of City Council was not on board with was being presented with a limited number of suppliers. Sirls is researching other alternatives. And like just about everything else in the contemporary economy, supply chain issues brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic are likely to delay delivery of whatever system that Saline ultimately purchases.
“I will have a full presentation, with proper comparable of other vendors on the next council agenda,” Sirls said.