By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Say goodbye to the city meter reader.
Tupelo Water & Light will spend $15 million to install fiber-optic meter reading equipment, which can remotely scan utility customers’ monthly usages.
When it’s fully operational, the technology will eliminate the need for Tupelo’s nine meter readers.
“No one is getting fired,” said Tupelo Water & Light Manager Johnny Timmons. “Those employees will have an opportunity to work in other positions” as they open due to retirement or other reasons.
Utility workers this month already began installing the fiber optic cable, which eventually will loop around the entire city on overhead lines. It then will be connected to each of Tupelo’s seven substations.
TW&L still must purchase and install the electronic and signaling equipment allowing its substations and meters to communicate remotely. Timmons said money for the project comes from the TW&L budget and not from the city’s general fund.
It will save the department vehicle, maintenance and fuel costs by eliminating the monthly routes to read thousands of customer meters.
The new system also will give customers more accurate readings of their usages.
Currently, “some months it will take 31 days, some days it will take 34 days, Timmons said. “That’s because of the weather. This will let us read your meter on 30 day increments so you can compare apples to apples.”
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and the City Council, who heard about the plan during a budget work session Monday, generally supported the project.
It could be fully functional within two years.