By The Associated Press
TUPELO – North Lee County Water Association will spend roughly $1 million to replace customer meters after learning much of its current stock has exceeded the recommended life span.
Outdated meters can produce inaccurate readings, said association Chairman Ken Clemons. That, in turn, leads to inaccurate monthly bills.
“We’ve got a lot of meters that are really bad old,” Clemons said. “We’ve got some meters that have not been read correctly.”
The association’s current board of directors was elected late last year after the previous group quit amid allegations of corruption from numerous employees. Also resigning was North Lee’s then-manager.
When new members came in, Clemons said, they surveyed the entire operation and noticed, among other deficiencies, that the meters needed major upgrades.
It then solicited bids for new ones, and, on Thursday, opened seven estimates from competing companies. Their prices ranged from $965,010 to $1,146,169.
Engineering Solutions Inc. will study the bids and the companies’ qualifications to recommend a winner by the next board meeting, said ESI Engineer Randy Hathcock.
It will take an estimated six months to install all 4,400 meters throughout the association’s vast district, which covers a wide swath of rural Lee County.
In addition to producing accurate readings, the new meters will save time and money because they allow employees to scan them remotely.
Existing meters require someone to physically look at the reading and enter it into a handheld computer.
“It takes me a whole month to read all the meters,” said Don McCormick, who on Thursday hit the Auburn Road area. For every reading, McCormick must locate the meter buried under ground, find the number and enter it into his device. His truck runs idle the entire time.
Under the new system, McCormick won’t even have to leave his truck. The meters will digitally transmit their results to his computer as he drives by. If he misses one, he’ll get a message from the system with the GPS location of the unread meter.
“I’ll be able to read every meter in three days,” he said. “I can’t wait.”
The system can be configured to allow readings from the office, but Clemons said the association declined.
“I think we need somebody riding the whole system at least once a month to make sure somebody’s not digging where they’re not supposed to be or to make sure there’s not a leak,” he said. “That is an option to do at a later date.”