Rift over Water Authority's authority, budget (Feb. 29, 2012)
After two days and more than four hours of meetings, impasse between the Rockdale Water and Sewerage Authority and Rockdale Water Resources over the question of radio-read water meters remains with both sides mulling over the discussions and information presented this week.
“We’ve got a lot to think about in how we’re going to move forward,” said Elaine Nash, chairman of the Water Authority board.
While there was not a conclusion reached, RWR Director Dwight Wicks said his understanding was that the Authority would look at the resolutions they had voted on a few weeks ago. “They were going to get back and review the original position they had taken. They had issued five resolutions, three of which were opposed to the radio meter read program,” said Wicks.
Board member Chip Hatcher said there were a number of options that could be pursued, including talking with the original radio vendor for more information or looking at options for a possible mix of radio read, touch read, and drive-by read meters.
The Board of Commissioners had delayed adopting RWR’s 2012 proposed $25.2 million operating budget and $9.7 million capitol budget after questions were raised about $270,000 slated for buying additional radio-read water meter technology. That amount, along with about $390,000 budgeted last year would have gone towards a pilot project in District 5, which is south of Interstate 20 and east of Ga. Highway 138, and District 6, around the Quigg Wastewater Treatment Plant. RWR already has in storage about 2,000 of the radio-read meters previously purchased but not yet installed.
RWR staff presented on Wednesday and Thursday about radio read meters, the existing meters, possible vendors, and the advantages of implementing the Neptune brand R450 fixed-base water meters, which would send signals to collection towers instead of having to drive out to meters.
Nash described it as a “calm presentation of the pros, and there weren’t many cons presented by the staff,” said Nash. “It was a pretty thorough examination. We still don’t have our arms around the eventual costs.” She questioned some of the assumptions on savings in the presentation.
Wicks said regarding the radio-read meters RWR had recommended, “You greatly reduce your operating expenses... You have no longer have to pay for the same number of people driving. There is a significant back end savings on labor and maintenance costs. Plus there’s an advantage to our customers in that these meters store data. If the customers have a leak, we can know within a day or week and we can notify them before they get a huge water bill.”
He also pointed out it would be too costly to convert every water meter to brands or makers other than Neptune, which make up about 77 percent of the existing 23,000 residential water meters in the county. Any conversion would have to be done on a pay-as-you-go basis, which could be spread out over 10 years, Wicks said.
Nash pointed out that although there was leakage on the customer’s side of about $195,000 in 2011, that amounted to about 3 percent of the total overall leakage in the system. Most of the leaks were in pipes and mains.
The water system has about 28 to 30 percent of its water unaccounted for, said Nash. “For every 30 days we produce, we lose 10 days worth of water.”
“Our main concern is replacing leaky pipes in the ground,” she said.
She added, “Mainly we wanted to utilize inventory we already had. We didn’t want to pull out meters we had put in 2008. We don’t have a good meter database" of water meters to know when to replace the meters. She also pointed out that by the time the water meters were all replaced in 10 years with the particular meter technology RWR proposed, technology might have already advanced far more.
“It is a complicated puzzle and it means nobody is going to get everything,” she said.
No other meetings between RWR and the Water Authority board have been scheduled so far.
The BOC holds its next voting meeting on April 24.