More than two years after making application, the City of Smithville has been approved for a USDA Rural Development Grant/Loan to help the city convert to a new automated water meter reading system
Mayor Taft Hendrixson made the announcement during Monday night's city council meeting. "Probably close to two years ago, we applied to Rural Development through TAUD for a grant for the automated water meter readers. We're probably the only utility in the county that doesn't have the automated readers. We still have two men, five to seven days every month to read the water meters. But we've been approved and we got a $95,000 grant and a $315,000 Rural Development Utilities Loan through Rural Development for the automated water meters. In the budget this year we've got $360,000 for this. I guess we'll decide a little later if we want to do the loan for twenty years or if we just want to pay off the loan. We have the money in the budget. But either way, we get a $95,000 grant. We'll have to put out bids to various companies for those automated meters and the electronic things that set on top of them. It will save $25,000 to $30,000 a year, maybe more from the cost of reading meters. That's a big cost," said Mayor Hendrixson.
During a city council meeting in February 2010, Will Taylor of the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts, addressed the mayor and aldermen on this issue. He was to assist the city in making the application.
Taylor said through Rural Development, the city could be eligible for up to a 45% grant for the total project, with the remainder to be funded through a low interest rate loan, which the city could carry for several years.
According to Taylor, benefits to the city by having an automated meter reading system are that it would reduce water loss by an estimated seven to fifteen percent and cut costs associated with the current manner of reading meters. For example, with an automated system, an employee could read all water meters in the city in just a day or two each month. This would also save fuel costs and wear and tear on city vehicles.
Many utilities are using AMR as a way of improving customer service while reducing the cost of reading meters. Some AMR systems use miniature radio transmitters attached to each water meter. These utilities are then able to collect the readings from handheld radio receivers and from moving vehicles. With this process, one driver in a vehicle is able to read more meters in one day. At the end of the day, the meter reader unloads the information to the city's billing system.