Oregon to replace transmitters that read water meters

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council recently approved purchase orders to United Systems & Software, Inc., Benton, Kentucky, for the purchase of Electronic Remote Transmitters (ERTs) to remotely read residential and commercial meters through the drive-by system for the Oregon Water Distribution Division.
        “ERTs are a key component in obtaining water and sewer billing data for the utility department when they send out bills,” said Public Service Director Paul Roman.
        The city has approximately 7,000 customers, he said.
        “Through the years, we’ve advanced,” said Roman. “We used to have a mechanism in which you have to pull into the driveway and point at the meter to get the data. Now we have an instrument in the vehicle that can literally drive by and pull in the data. We do it a lot quicker now.”
        In 2004, the city began the process of switching from a manual water meter reading system to a radio meter reading system to improve the efficiency of data collection for water consumption.
        The radio meter reading system consists of installing an ERT with a meter register to convert the actual measurement to a radio signal, which includes the identification of the water customer.
        “It definitely took several years to get everybody switched over,” said Roman.
        The Oregon Division of Water Distribution needed additional ERTs to be installed with new water meters, and to replace older ERTs installed in the original switchover.
        The battery life is usually 10-12 years. The city has been getting battery life of around 17 years, said Roman. The ERTs are starting to die off since being put into service in 2004. It is estimated the city will need to replace about 1,000 ERTs this year.
        ERTs are only available for purcase through an authorized vendor. A unit price quote was received from United Systems & Software, Inc., the authorized vendor for Northwest Ohio.
        The unit price quote of $90 per ERT was determined to be the lowest and best quote.
New technology
        Councilman Dennis Walendzak asked Roman whether there was advanced technology that didn’t require someone to drive through the neighborhoods to collect the data but that it would be sent wirelessly through the Internet.
        Roman said there was, but it was costly.
        “Through the years, we’ve checked how we’ve done it compared to other cities. There are brand new systems where you have to install a lot of hardware throughout the entire city. The infrastructure for that is in the billions,” he said.
        Oregon is able to collect its data in a day and a half, explained Roman.
        “So yes, there are some systems out there in which you just press a button to collect that data, but you’re also spending a lot of money on infrastructure to do that,” said Roman.
        “I think it’s a good investment to keep going with what we have. Eventually, we may look at getting something better. But for now, I think we get a lot for our money.”
        City Administrator Mike Beazley agreed.
        “There are systems that will automatically do it. If we were 40,000 households, it would be a little different math. We think that for a day and a half, it’s really working well right now. At some point, maybe the technology will be easier. Right now, this is working pretty well,” said Beazley.



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