Utility starts meter pilot
by By RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jul 22, 2013 | 1821 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Utilities has launched a long-awaited pilot project to install at least 500 new water meters that utilize Advanced Metering Infrastructure technology in the homes of residential customers and some businesses.

Like the conversion of 30,000 electric meters to AMI, a technology also known as SmartMeters, the CU Water Division pilot project is expected to include neighborhoods off Peerless Road across from the Mars Chocolate North America plant, and stretching toward the Cleveland State Community College campus.

The Electric Division conversion took only about two years, but the water meter switchout will be budgeted over a six-year period due to budget constraints, according to initial reports made earlier this year to members of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities.

In a recent board session held earlier this month, CU Water Division Vice President Craig T. Mullinax confirmed, “... We’ve got things fairly well started [with the pilot project].”

Walt Vineyard, vice president of CU Information Technology who is working closely with Mullinax and the Water Division in the AMI conversion, projected the 500-meter pilot could take up to two months for completion. Once the pilot is completed, and assuming CU is getting the cost- and streamlined efficiencies that it expects from the AMI meters, the project will continue, Mullinax and Vineyard explained.

“For this pilot project, we hope to use our existing staff,” Mullinax said. Using current CU technicians — at least, with the pilot project — would eliminate the need for an outside contractor and would reduce costs.

Of the pilot conversion, Mullinax said its early stages will include a learning curve as CU becomes more familiar with AMI technology in its water meters. Similar procedures were used with an earlier conversion of electric meters, and now CU administrators report efficiencies and cost reductions that were not apparent using the old analog electric meters.

“It’ll evolve as we get through this project,” Mullinax pointed out. “We’ll learn a lot about how we’ll proceed into the future ... and then how to spend the money to get [the conversion] done. We’re excited about this project ... it is officially started.”

At the recommendation of CU staff, the utility board approved a purchase order with Badger Meter Inc. in the amount of $85,113.15 for the purchase of AMI water meters for use during the 2013-14 fiscal year. These meters will be used for AMI/AMR activation.

Followup reports to the board could be provided by Mullinax and Vineyard later this week as the utility’s governing body prepares to meet again on Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Tom Wheeler Training Center. The CU board last met only two weeks ago, but that was because the July 8 gathering had been delayed from June.

Over a two-year period in 2010 and 2011, the local utility spent about $4.6 million to convert 30,000 electric meters. This project was completed by CU technicians and an outside contractor. The electric meters’ remote-read technology was installed in order to cut costs, improve the efficiency and accuracy of the meter-reading process, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the environment by removing more service vehicles from the road.

The utility board gave its official thumbs up to the water meter conversion to AMI technology earlier this year in an April gathering. Since that time, CU Water Division and IT leaders have worked to plot the strategy in preparation for the pilot phase.

The pilot installation of 500 water meters will cost some $98,768. If the pilot goes as planned, CU will budget some $4.5 million over the next six years to convert all 30,000 water meters.

“We believe we will get as much, or greater, benefit from these water meters as we did the electric meters,” CU President and CEO Tom Wheeler told the board back in April.

Of the project cost, he pointed out, “We’d like to do it in one year.” But keeping the conversion going in phases, and paying for it one step at a time, is the more practical approach, Wheeler conceded.

Vineyard reported in an earlier board session that cost per unit of installation is about $150.

In other developments at the recent gathering, CU board members:

n Approved a purchase order with Utility Specialists Inc. in the amount of $62,018 for 17 galvanized steel poles ranging in heights of 65 to 85 feet. Six transmission poles are to be used in the replacement of existing poles located near the intersection of Blue Springs Road and APD 40, and 11 commonly used transmission poles will be placed in stock for future use.

n Approved an increase in the final purchase order with Synagro South LLC in the amount of $5,602.21 for the processing of an additional 20.21 dry tons of biosolids. This increases the purchase-order amount from $48,232.80 to $53,835.01.

n Approved Property, Casualty and Workers’ Compensation Insurance for the period beginning July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2014.

n Approved the Annual Service and Material Contracts from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. Contracts were awarded to Vulcan Materials Company for the purchase of stone at a cost of $70,000; and to Jackie Evans Trucking Company for alum sludge hauling and disposal from the Cleveland Filter Plant at a cost of $90,000.

n Approved a purchase order with Hampton Backhoe Service Inc. in the amount of $193,430.93 for the installation of 915 feet of 6-inch water line, 1,290 feet of 12-inch water line and pressure-reducing valves. The project will provide increased water pressure in the areas of McGrady Drive SE and APD 40.

n Approved a purchase order with K. Berry Construction Inc. in the amount of $136,396 for the rehabilitation of one spiral lift pump located at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.