By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
Before the end of next year, all Fulton residents should have brand new, state-of-the-art water and gas meters and most of the city’s lights will be more energy efficient.
While that might not seem like exciting news initially, the project represents an investment of more than $3-million from the city and will drastically alter the way the city’s utility meters are read and the amount of electricity used in city buildings and on streets.
Preliminary work on the project has already begun. During their recent regular bi-monthly board meeting, Fulton aldermen approved an $802,759 payment to Siemens, Inc., which is tackling the necessary electrical work for the project.
The project is being funded via a $3.2-million loan, which will be paid back over the next 15 years.
According to Fulton City Clerk Lisa Russell, work on installing the meters is expected to begin some time in December. The process, from first-to-last meter installed, will likely take a year to complete.
Each of the city’s approximately 2,000 gas meters and 3,200 water meters will be replaced.
Fulton Mayor Paul Walker said the project is needed more than most people probably realize. Over the past few years, the city’s aging meters have begun showing signs of wear, resulting in misreadings or costly leaks.
“We have some high leaks on our system and a lot of old meters that aren’t giving proper readings,” Walker explained. “This project is going to get us an all new, complete meter system.”
The new meters are a significant upgrade from what’s currently being used. Both water and gas meters will be all digital, meaning they won’t have to be read manually. In fact, the city’s meter reader won’t even have to exit his truck to collect the data: Using a small handheld device, he’ll be able to ride down the street and accurately gather information electronically.
As a result of this, the process of reading meters will take drastically less time. Currently, it takes the city’s two meter readers a month to gather readings; once the project’s complete, it will take them less than two days.
Additionally, the city’s street and building lights are being upgraded to be more energy efficient. According to Walker, this change — along with savings from the new meters — will lower the city’s energy bills considerably, offsetting the cost of the project. He said the savings accrued from these changes should cover between 70-80 percent of the total project’s cost.