City of Minden moves forward with automated meters

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The City of Minden is making the next step towards automated electric and water meters.
In the coming months, the city council will decide whether to grant authority to mayor Tommy Davis to enter into discussion and negotiation with a company to install electronic meters throughout the city.

“We’ve been talking about that for about two years now,” he said. “In the last couple of months, more than ever, the need has been pointed out by the people who work here in city hall. The meter reading is getting more difficult.”

By the time meters are read, processed and billed, some people may be getting bills for a 28-day cycle, others a 40-day cycle, Davis said. By going to an automated system, readings are more accurate, the billing cycle is the same every month and a host of other benefits for the city and the customers.

The city received three requests for proposals, one from Utiliworks quoting $3,777,765, one from HD, quoting $3,715,952 and the third from AquaMetric out of Texas quoting $2,640,813. After meeting with the public works department heads for both water and electric, the company that will be presented for approval is Aquametric as it seems to better meet the needs of the city, Davis said.

If approved by the council, it will then take four months to install the electronics of the system, the repeater towers, the equipment needed inside city hall and the software for the program. Once that is complete, Davis says it will be up to a year before all the meters are replaced. Until then, meters will be manually read and billing will continue as is.

The council will then have to decide how to fund the cost of the project. City clerk Michael Fluhr estimated $3 million for the total cost, with the option of financing it through either the bond commission or Government Capital, a lending company that works with municipalities for funding needs.

“We have figured about $350,000 on contingencies,” Fluhr said, adding the quotes received are what the package would cost.

There are three proposals the council will consider on how to pay for it. The first proposal, he says, is nothing in the budget and nothing pulled from reserves would leave the city financing the full $3 million. In proposal two, he explained, if the $3 million is financed, he would put $350,000 into the budget for contingencies, leaving a total to pay back $2.65. In proposal three, $350,000 would come from the public works fund and $1 million from reserves, leaving $1.65.

“The question is, do we want to do the $350,000 out of our own pocket or do we finance it?” Fluhr said, adding the $350,000 is just an estimated figure. “We don’t know how high the contingency could be.”

Davis says reserves as of Sept. 30, stands at $15,842,000.

If AquaMetric is chosen, the company will be responsible for the installation of the meters and parts if needed, but the city will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep once installed.

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