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Meter reading system approved

SALEM — The Salem Utilities Commission agreed Thursday to go forward with plans for a fixed-point water meter reading system at an estimated cost of $130,000, using the water meters already in place for now.

Commission members also asked for an estimate on the number of water meters that may need replaced and information on a leasing system through NECO Water, the company providing the new system.

Currently, an employee of the water department drives around the city gathering the information from meters using a mobile radio frequency unit once a month, taking four days to cover the reading of meters in the city and Perry Township which accounts for 32 man hours and 150 miles per month.

Ray Schwarz, the Ohio Sales Manager for NECO Water, formerly known as Neptune Equipment Company, explained how the fixed-point system works, using data collectors or transmitters affixed to high points around the city, such as the Roosevelt water towers, to automatically collect water usage data from meters in homes and businesses and transmit that information to the water office every hour. The constant readings will result in a time-savings for the department and more accurate data for catching leaks or other water usage issues sooner.

Schwarz made a presentation to the commission in July and returned Thursday with proposals for getting started and to answer any questions. He said the commission could move the existing system of meters to a fixed-point system which would include four collectors mounted at four strategic points to gather the information, automated web-based software, installation of a tower for one of the collector sites, and training for staff and implementation. The system will work with the existing water meters.

The city has already been working on replacing old reading equipment in the city that will be obsolete, replacing the old readers with new readers from NECO. Terry Endsley, general foreman of the distribution department, said there are 820 readers left to replace.

Engineer Jon Vollnogle of Howells & Baird gave a testimonial on the fixed-point meter reading system that was installed in Leetonia with all new water meters. He said the Leetonia officials love the new system. They went from having very little information about water usage to having a lot of information, saying they found a lot of leaks in people’s homes and found a lot of problems for homeowners.

“They’re extremely pleased with the system,” Vollnogle said.

The idea is to find issues before they get too far out of hand and homeowners end up with a huge bill for water from a running toilet or water break. Personnel can look at the data and know immediately about a problem.

The system software will have the ability to generate reports to identify possible leaks, excessive consumption and reverse flow, allowing water department personnel to take action immediately to contact the water user and determine the issue before it goes too long and results in a big bill. The system will also allow for final readings for customers immediately instead of having to schedule a final reading and send personnel to the site.

The project will have to be bid and go through city council for approval.

In other business, the commission met in executive session at the beginning of the meeting and before the end of the meeting for two separate personnel matters.

As a result of one executive session, the commission agreed to refill the managerial position of special projects manager that’s been vacant for seven years. The position requires a Class III certification for water/sewer operator. Assistant Superintendent Matt Hoopes had been doing the duties, but has been off for an extended period of time and no one with that certification is available on a daily basis and can fill in for the water or wastewater operations. The plant managers at the treatment plants need to remain at the plants.

Commission Chairman Bob Hodgson said they already have candidates for the position.

The other personnel matter stemmed from a union grievance that the commission was responding to involving an alleged assault by a supervisor. They couldn’t go into detail since the situation involved personnel.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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