By Joshua Maloni
Residents in the Village of Lewiston are one step closer to new water meters.
Scott Little of Lock City Supply Inc., the Badger Meter distributor for the Western New York area, briefed trustees in the Village of Lewiston on new water meter capabilities.
"We're able to offer a managed solution and a hybrid, which means we can incorporate fixed-base network cellular and mobile all in one software platform," he said at Monday's work session.
The primary goal, Little explained, is increasing efficiency to enhance customer service and offer more value to residents.
While trustees appeared pleased with such a notion, they're also keenly aware the existing water meters have outlived their expected usage.
At a recent budget hearing, Deputy Treasurer Edward Walker said, "Right now, we use a system that's 14 years old. ... The batteries in those units are not replaceable, and they were only good for 10 years. ... More and more of those transponders are failing. We have to manually do the readings, which is not beneficial."
Little put it this way: "Like your car, your car drives best the day you drive it off the lot. Ten years from now, your car's not going to be running as efficiently as it did 10 years ago. A water meter - a positive displacement mechanical meter - is the same way."
Presently, the Department of Public Works staffers drive around the village with a portable meter reader, picking up a radio signal and relaying information back to Walker.
Little said this process is inefficient, and wastes time, money and manpower.
"The (automated meter-reading system) software 14 years ago was effective for its day," he said. "It was able to transfer electronically; you could bring your bills from the billing vendor; but that was pretty much about all it did."
He explained, "Now we have what's called advanced metering analytics. ... The software is actually analyzing the data for you as it comes in. It provides practical solutions to your operations.
"It's handy to know, on a daily basis, what you've bought from Niagara County, and what your customers consume. The difference being your water unaccounted for.
"Right now, you read your meters every 90 days. So, in that incidence, it's tough to get a handle on where your water is going. ... So, if a customer has an issue on the day you read the meters, you're probably going to catch it. If the customer has the issue the day after you read the meters, 90 days go by before you catch that reading again."
Upgraded meters, complete with new software and a cellular network, are "going to provide you with a true understanding of how your utilities operate and where your water is going," Little said.
The estimated cost to replace 1,200 water meters in the village is around $370,000.
"It's something we've got to do, because we're losing money," Trustee Vic Eydt said.
The Village Board will discuss the situation with its accounting firm, Brown & Company, as well as with grant writer Bernie Rotella, to determine the best course of action. Options include applying for a grant, utilizing a bond or possibly using some of the municipality's $1.4 million fund balance.
As for Little's original point, that new meters would enhance customer service and offer more value to residents, he noted advance metering analytics benefit customers, too. He said homeowners could download the EyeOnWater app to access personal accounts, view water usage and set up alerts. They could even potentially curtail mishaps while out of town.
"The key today is to bring value to your residents through relationships with the customers," he said.
Lock City Supply is located in Lockport.