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City still having problems with electronic meter reading system

The city of Richmond spent thousands of dollars on an electronic water meter reading system several years ago and some bugs still are not worked out.
City Administrator Rick Childers told Finance Committee members Tuesday night that the city is stuck in a hard spot with the system.
City Collector Marilyn O’Dell said the company that sold the system to the city said there is a half to one percent rate of individual sensors that would not function each month. She said it’s been more like 15 percent for an average. Last month she said 248 did not work, but said that number fell to 218 this month.
Now the city must spend more than $5,000 to re-enter into a service agreement contract with the manufacturer of the product, but the agreement only runs through June of this year. At that time Childers said the city will have to spend an additional amount of money to upgrade the system. He said the alternative is to junk the $169,000 worth of the initial investment and start over.
Childers also said the problem may be with the meters themselves. City Wastewater Superintendent C. E. Goodall said the city bought the meters at a bulk rate, but later found out they were junk. Water Department employee Bob Duncan said the gears are made of plastic and wear down easily. He said the city only has about a dozen left.
“When you’re purchasing lowest and best, make sure you’re doing the best,” Childers said about the purchase.
Committee members instructed staff to stop installing the faulty meters and to begin exploring new options. Goodall said there are still more than 600 old meters in the ground that have not been replaced.
Childers said he thinks the meters are a problem, because the city began losing money after the new meters were installed. He said just the opposite should have happened, and the meters should have been performing more efficiently.
“The revenues went down and that doesn’t happen,” Childers said. “It just flat does not happen. I don’t have (an explanation), I really don’t.”

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