Century Purchases $137K Water Meters, Expects To Increase Billing

September 15, 2010

The Town of Century has approved the $137,386 purchase of nearly 1,000 new automated water meters to eliminate billing problems and lost revenue.

The purchase of 941 meters from Datamatic, Ltd. will be financed for two years interest free with the first payment due next year. Datamatic has told the town that they will recoup much of the purchase price in additional billings due to increased meter efficiency.

The purchase, which was already in the town’s budget, was approved 3-0 with council members Henry Hawkins and Gary Riley absent from the meeting.

“We were doing the best we could do,” Mayor Freddie McCall said recently of the town’s current automated water meters, “but what we ended up doing was throwing Band-Aids on a situation that required more.”

The current automated meters have been plagued by misreads, billing mishaps and continual customers complaints.

“We have been fighting this for years now,” McCall said at a meeting with a Datamatic official last month. He said that the current system will correctly run only about one of every 10-15 billing profiles. A billing profile is essentially a long-term account history. “It’s a headache.”

“The problems with that product start snowballing and it becomes very inaccurate,” Dan Devane, regional sales manager for meter equipment Datamatic, Ltd., said at a special council workshop August 24. Datamatic manufactured the current, problematic meters, which were installed about five years ago. They also manufacture the new “Mosaic Firefly” equipment the town may purchase.

In trading in the old system for the new, Datamatic will provide the town about $140,000 in discounts.

With the new Mosaic Firefly system, the town’s meter reader will never leave his vehicle. He will simply drive block to block as the meters automatically report their readings. For an estimated $30,000 in upgrades at a later date, the new system wold be capable of automatically reporting water meter readings from across the town without human intervention.

With the completely automated “mesh” system, each meter would communicate with neighboring meters, eventually relaying a report from each meter back to city hall. That method, Devane said, is much more cost effective than sending out a human meter reader. In addition, daily reports could pinpoint customers with leaks, backflows, usage on inactive accounts and fraud.

Datamatic also manufactured the current gas meter reading system for the Town of Century. McCall said there is no plan to replace that equipment at this point, but it would eventually be phased out for a newer system like that proposed for the water meters.

The new water meters would have a 10 year guarantee, including an internal battery. Each meter would store hourly information for 320 days. The new meters will also be lead-free, a standard required of new meters in Florida by 2012.

The $137,386 purchase will pay for itself in less than two years, according to estimates by Devane. He estimated the town would realize an additional $83,125 in additional billings due to increased meter efficiency and about $2,200 per year in labor savings.

Pictured top: Datamatic Regional Sales Manager Dan Devane describes a new water meter system  as Century Mayor Freddie McCall and Council President Ann Brooks look on. Pictured below: This PowerPoint slide details the no cost items the Datamatic company promises to provide to the Town of Century with a water meter system upgrade. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


6 Responses to “Century Purchases $137K Water Meters, Expects To Increase Billing”

  1. David Huie Green on September 19th, 2010 4:28 pm

    “What if they were handing out gift certificates for free water service? Would you be balking that those should only go to “the poor?””

    That was a well framed question.


    “How do you know that water bills are actually going to go up?
    Perhaps your bill has been OVERREAD with the old meter—and now you just MAY have a CHEAPER bill.”

    It does happen but usually is made up for at the next reading. Most likely event, though, is that meter drags and does not measure all the water flowing through it, under reads. The town has to get its operations money somehow so they wind up charging everybody a bit more to make up for what some are getting free.

    Or so it seems to me.

    David for perfect meters

  2. Ron on September 18th, 2010 4:45 pm

    Same O, Same O.

  3. NHS Fan on September 16th, 2010 8:17 am

    This mentality of we can’t change is why this area is without a school and industry, please wake up.

  4. Observer on September 15th, 2010 6:09 pm

    Progress costs. That is an undeniable fact. Good meat isn’t cheap, and cheap meat isn’t good.

  5. rhonda---removed from the area... on September 15th, 2010 11:52 am

    Nothing wrong with upgrading a system…especially if the current meters are not being read correctly.
    Clearly not at the “cost of the poor”—it is a cost to everyone…just as the savings it will provide over an expanded period of time –that will be passed on to everyone.
    What if they were handing out gift certificates for free water service? Would you be balking that those should only go to “the poor?”
    How do you know that water bills are actually going to go up?
    Perhaps your bill has been OVERREAD with the old meter—and now you just MAY have a CHEAPER bill.
    Last time I looked at my paycheck…it was a set amount too. I think just about all of us live on a “fixed income.”
    Did you read what all the new system will provide?
    Less manpower needed — meters can be read at the roadside.
    It can pinpoint leaks, etc—without a person having to physically look for the problem…or better yet…it can notice a problem instantly—other than waiting for someone to get an outrageous bill—due to a leak. Think Green here…the leak can be found and fixed—-rather than wasting thousands of gallons of water.
    I know Alabama Power has a share account where people can donate $1/month to help low income customers….perhaps you should see if the Town of Century would be interested in initiating something similiar to help those that need assistance.

  6. T Hendrix on September 15th, 2010 8:56 am


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