Going the way of the milkman, the meter reader is becoming a thing of the past, with Prince Albert in the process of switching out its stock of manually read water meters.
On Monday, the city’s elected officials approved the purchase new water meters that can be read from hundreds of feet away with a handheld radio device.
“This is a technological advancement for the city of Prince Albert,” Coun. Martin Ring said during Monday’s city council meeting.
“The labour groups may not necessarily find this too pleasing, but the bottom line is that we could probably service more meters with definitely less people -- that is one of the benefits of it.
“We’re talking about cost savings for the City of Prince Albert.”
Council approved the purchase of 585 new water meters, 150 new interface units that retrofit existing meters, and 45 water meter heads, at a cost of about $220,000.
“With these radio-read meters, it’s just install the meter and pretty much turn it on -- it automatically comes on … and we can start reading right from the street,” assistant finance director Brian Parschauer said, adding that they run on batteries with lifespans of up to 20 years.
The new meters come at a cost of $277 at their residential size and can be installed and operational within 15 minutes.
These new meters don’t require the drilling of any holes, Parschauer noted -- something that the city’s previous batch of water meter updates required.
The last cycle of updates included the installation of 5,700 pin pad meters that can be read from outside of residents’ homes.
The labour groups may not necessarily find this too pleasing, but the bottom line is that we could probably service more meters with definitely less people -- that is one of the benefits of it. - Coun. Martin Ring
An additional 5,300 meters are from an even older cycle of installation and require access into basements to read.
The city started its radio-read water meter replacement project last year, switching out approximately 850 meters, including those at various schools throughout the city.
The first priority area has been the replacement of manually-read meters that require access to basements, Parschauer said. New builds will also see the new style meters installed.
“We have a list of a lot of people who in the past wanted pin pad technology -- we’re going through that list first.”
Those who have the new radio-read meters installed will find their water bills are more accurate, Parschauer said.
With the older stock, he said, “you’ll typically find more water flowing through the meter than is actually being registered, so these new meters are more accurate.”
Although the new water meters will save the city fuel costs, Coun. Charlene Miller suggested that the city should be using fuel-efficient cars for manual meter readings they still have to perform.
“We still have our current vehicle -- a pickup truck is what we use,” city finance director Joe Day said, adding that this vehicle will join the rest of the fleet in the department’s efficiencies review.