Commission considers meter replacement project

By Sam Wildow -

PIQUA — The Piqua City Commission met for a worksession Thursday evening to discuss installing a new electric meter-reading program alongside the water meter-reading replacement project the city is doing in the Southview neighborhood.

“The plans are to move us from the Stone Ages into modern technologies, basically,” City Manager Gary Huff said.

The city was awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Critical Infrastructure Grant to replace the water meters in the Southview neighborhood in September 2015 in the amount of approximately $380,000. The Southview neighborhood was chosen because more than 51 percent of its residents have a low or moderate income, making this neighborhood eligible for CDBG funding. Approximately 1,200 residential and 65 commercial water meters will be replaced.

The city has since looked into updating the electric meters as well for the entire city, but beginning first with the Southview neighborhood as their pilot area.

“It’s an expansion of that infrastructure,” Utility Automation Consultant Kyle Kopczyk of Power System Engineering, Inc. said.

With the new water meters, there will be no need for a meter reader to enter a home or business. The existing water meters in the homes and businesses in the Southview neighborhood will be replaced with new ones that use Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology that will allow the meter reader to remotely read the meters and send the information to the city’s billing office.

This will also reduce the safety hazards that the reader may encounter, such as dog encounters, slipping on ice, and dangerous basement stairs.

The new meter readers will also recognize a water leak right away versus when the customer receives an abnormally high water bill.

“We can be more proactive … so someone doesn’t get a gigantic bill at the end of the month,” Kopczyk said.

The same type of technology will be utilized for the possible new electric meters, which Kopczyk referred to as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). They will be able to monitor voltage, provide on-demand readings, provide more accurate outage and restoration information, and detect if there is a source in the house that is using a particularly large amount of energy.

There will also be a significantly reduced need to estimate utility bills due to the ability to remotely read the meters and monitor usage.

Kopczyk explained that they sent out requests for proposal (RFPs). Seven companies were considered, including Aclara, AMP (Silver Springs), Eaton’s Cooper Lighting, EJP (Sensus), Elster Metering, Landis+Gyr, and Tantalus Systems Corporation. The top three were Aclara, Eaton, and EJP (Sensus), with Aclara deemed the best fit for Piqua.

“For the current and future needs, Aclara is the leading vendor here,” Kopczyk said. Aclara also has a strong presence in Ohio.

If the city commits to Aclara for this project, Aclara will partner with Smart Grid Solutions to install the meters.

“They’re going to be responsible for scheduling, the installation, the quality assurance checks, the complaints, the calls that come in,” Kopczyk said.

Overall, the cost of the entire project of replacing the electric meters in the city is estimated to be $4.3 million, which will be offset by the CDBG grant of $380,000 and budgeted to be paid out over three years. The majority of costs are for the meters themselves.

Commissioner Bill Vogt said that he was “all for this,” but he could also see the city running into problems with the electrical systems at older houses. Older homes might need their own upgrades in order to be compatible with these new meters.

Piqua Power Systems Director Ed Krieger said that their plans are to work with those customers and absorb those costs since the city is the driving force behind these meter replacements.

“We’re not going to re-wire the whole house, though,” Vogt said.

Krieger agreed that they will not.

The next step in this process will be to present this plan to the Energy Board for approval before being brought before the commission again during a regular meeting in September. Commissioners John Martin and Vogt as well as Mayor Kazy Hinds each agreed that they would like to move forward with this project. Commissioners Joe Wilson and Judy Terry were absent.

By Sam Wildow

Reach the writer at (937) 451-3336

Reach the writer at (937) 451-3336