CIRCLEVILLE — The City of Circleville Utility Department is to be sending notices next month to let customers know of impending water meter replacements for all meters inside the city.
The notices are part of a larger project to bring all homes onto a new remote monitoring system that will allow both the utilities department and citizens to remotely view their usage.
Ragene Pinson, administrative assistant with the utilities department, said there are three improvements for the public, including proactive leak alerts, improved customer service through an online portal and the ability for crews to have more time for maintenance instead of having to manually check water meters.
The new system, an AMI system, is something Pinson said the city has wanted to achieve for some time and can do it now, thanks to the water rate increases that were implemented last year.
“This is an automated reading system, so instead of the guys going out and spending five or six days walking the streets, I can push a button and get a reading instantly,” Pinson said.
“What this means for our customers is their readings will be run on the first of the month and they’ll be more consistent. They will no longer get a bill for, say 20 days of usage, and then another for 40 days.”
Pinson said in addition to more consistent billing, the system will automatically notify the utilities department if water usage is constant for 36 straight hours, signifying a leak somewhere.
“The system will tell me within 72 hours if someone has a leak,” she said. “Right now, if someone has a leak, we won’t catch it until we’re doing billing and six weeks could have passed. They could have a $600 to $800 bill before we even notice it. The new system will send me readings and if it notices the continual water usage, then it knows there’s a leak since no home will use water consistently for 36 hours. I can then call that person and catch the leak immediately.”
Pinson said installations are to be completed by a third party who will send out post cards to customers. The new meters are mandated by the city.
“Everyone has to have their meters changed; they’re required for the new system to work,” she said.
The meters are read by antennas in a number of locations around the city and provide information hourly to the automated system. The meters cannot shut off water electronically and must still be done in person.
“We do not have the auto-shutoff feature,” Pinson said.
Pinson said freeing up their workers from the tasks of checking water readings will help them keep up on maintenance tasks.
“We're previously having to schedule maintenance tasks for the last half of the month because we know that we’ve got three guys on the street reading,” she said.
“Currently, every time someone moves in or out, they have to go into a reading for a final one. This also eliminates that task of pushing a button, get the old customer’s reading and start the new account. This is massive for us.
For the most part, we’ve essentially eliminated the need of our guys to read meters and they can do other things, such as take care of water and sewer line issues they have,” she said.
Pinson said customers can either download an app for their phone or visit a website on their computers to view detailed reports on their usage.
“It will show them the same thing we get; they can see their hourly usage and can even put an alert on their phone that will notify them if they use a certain amount of water,” she said. “If they want to budget how much water they consume or be aware of, it they can do that.”
Pinson said additional information would go out to customers that receive a paper bill in December and she’s still working on a solution for paperless customers.
The crews installing the new meters have extended hours, including on Saturdays and will make appointments with customers to enter their home. About half the homes in the city have exterior water meters and won’t require an appointment. Pinson said water service would be down for about 30 minutes at most while the switch happens.
“[The 30 minutes] is probably on the high side of things,” Pinson said.
Professional Meters Inc. will be the company doing the installation and will wear proper PPE and be screened for COVID-19 before entering homes. Customers who will require an inside installation will receive a post card from the company sometime next month.
“The system should fully be done and completed by July, so it will move quick,” Pinson said.
Anyone with questions can contact the city utility department at 740-477-8234.
“We’re really excited about this system and there are a lot of good things about it,” Pinson said. “It’s been a long time coming.”