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City to buy water meter reading system

Automatic system expected to save money in long run


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville's Willamette River Water Treatment Plant, shown here, now treats and distributes enough water to provide the city of Sherwood with up to 5 million gallons per day once a key pipeline is finished.The city of Sherwood is moving ahead with plans to purchase an automatic meter reading system, expressing interest in supplying six companies with the hardware for residential and commercial water users.

Craig Sheldon, the city’s public works director, said his department is now reviewing the vendors who recently submitted requests for proposals for the system.

The city will use $300,000 in water funds to purchase the system, which will allow the city to read water meters remotely instead of using an employee to physically inspect the devices.

“Once our system is completely online, you won’t have to have a meter reader,” said Sheldon. That will mean that the city’s current meter reader, who has to read more than 5,700 water meters, can be assigned to other needed water duties, said Sheldon. In addition to reading meters, the meter reader also handles customer service calls, is involved with mosquito control, rechecks homes with possible leaks and places door hanger warnings on homes that haven’t paid their bills, said Sheldon.

Plans are to gradually replace or retrofit current meters throughout the city, using money from future water budgets to fund the project, expected to cost an estimated $1.5 million before it’s all done.

While that may sound like a lot of money, Sheldon said the city is preparing for growth, and the new metering system is estimated to save $318,000 in the first year or a 5.7-year payback.

“We’re not looking at doing a Cadillac system,” said Sheldon. “We’re looking to make efficiencies in our operations.”

Benefits of having an automatic meter reading system include increased accuracy, better leak detection and the ability to determine if there’s a backflow into the water system, said Sheldon.

Plans are to replace some residential and commercial meters and update others by changing the meters’ readout (an 8-inch tall device that attaches to the current meter).

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - The city of Wilsonville's Willamette River Water Treatment Plant.Sheldon said he estimated more than half of the current water meters in the city are 15 years or older with a life expectancy of only 20 years.

“There are quite a few agencies that have gone to this,” said Sheldon.

The Tualatin Valley Water District, along with the cities of Hillsboro, Gresham and Wilsonville, have all gone to the automatic system and Tigard is making the switch as well, city officials say.

Once the bids for automatic meter reading system are reviewed, plans are to select several companies and hook up their products, giving them a test drive for a month or so before making a final selection by February, said Sheldon.

“Hopefully by the spring we’ll have some meters coming in,” he said.

The city currently draws its water supply from the Willamette River and is in the final process of completing the last segment of pipe that will allow Sherwood to draw up to 5 million gallons of water per day from an intake/treatment facility in Wilsonville.

In October, the Sherwood City Council promised not to raise water rates in 2014. That was despite suggestions that a 2 percent increase - or roughly an extra $1 per month increase on water bills for the average Sherwood household - be implemented.



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