PITCH: Council mulls $2.6M utility meter purchase


By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com



Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times George Bjelovuk of American Municipal Power asks Amherst leaders to consider joining a statewide push to install new water and electric meters that wirelessly report usage numbers.


If you’ve ever been surprised by a huge water or power bill, this may interest you.

Amherst could spend up to $2.6 million to install new high-tech meters at every single home and business citywide in order to cut down on costs and billing problems.

American Municipal Power rep George Bjelovuk pitched the purchase Monday to city council, asking elected officials to sign a letter expressing interest in buying to a system that would read electric and water meters remotely every hour.

Meter readers would no longer have to travel up and down streets collecting those readings every month.

The technology would also help catch costly leaks, monitor peak power hogs, fix delays that sometimes put bills two months behind, and even tell Amherst workers in real time where and how many homes are affected by power outages.

Two years ago, AMP formed a “smart grid advisory committee” to weed through the costly maze of utilities equipment and services offered by for-profit companies. It narrowed its list down to 23 vendors, then nine, and finally settled on two — Silver Spring Networks and ElectSolve.

Now AMP is investing $1 million in research and development for a 10-year program with the initial goal of installing 200,000 new meters statewide. It signed contracts with Silver Spring and ElectSolve, negotiating prices and inviting cities to jump on board.

“It’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve done in a while. It’s going to benefit our utilities workers and our citizens,” said mayor Mark Costilow, asking council for support.

He’s been working since February on a plan to overhaul Amherst’s metering capabilities.

Amherst utilities superintendent Ron Merthe said the new meters would last 50 years, though their battery packs would need replaced every decade. Otherwise, their maintenance is expected to be cheaper than what the city spends now on its existing meters.

The new models would also be far easier to replace. Installation would take just a matter of minutes except in some cases where decades-old meters have rusted bolts or other complications.

If Amherst decides to look further into the program, it would be the eighth community to do so. To date, only one city has signed on for new meter purchases.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times George Bjelovuk of American Municipal Power asks Amherst leaders to consider joining a statewide push to install new water and electric meters that wirelessly report usage numbers.

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2016/09/web1_DSC_4855.jpg

Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times George Bjelovuk of American Municipal Power asks Amherst leaders to consider joining a statewide push to install new water and electric meters that wirelessly report usage numbers.

By Jason Hawk

jhawk@civitasmedia.com