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City shares updates on smart water meters

A RTS Solutions crew installs a water meter in a northeast neighborhood of Roswell in May. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The city of Roswell provided new updates on the smart water meter project as it nears completion.

At this time, City Engineer Louis Najar said other municipalities are calling Roswell to learn about the smart water meter project. At Tuesday evening’s public forum, Najar said the city decided to change all the water meters to smart meters after a study showing the meters were reading at an average of 80 percent and not “to be mean.”

“Roswell is a step ahead going to the smart meters for a city of 50,000,” Najar said.

Najar said the city only has around 3,500 to install of the 19,000 meters. Najar clarified that the city not increasing the water bill, but is now charging what is actually being used. To finance the meters, Najar explained that the city issued a $20,000,000 bond. The meters also have a 20-year guarantee with a 98 percent accuracy rate.

Todd Wildermuth, the city’s public information officer, said that Project Manager Kevin Dillon said the project is near the last installation phase and the network and software integration are on the way to being finalized. Wildermuth said the completion date is expected for late September.

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For the benefit of the citizens, City Councilor Juan Oropesa asked Najar again if the citizens have the option to contact the city and then the city will contact Retro-Tech Systems (RTS) Water Solutions. Najar confirmed this and wanted citizens to be aware that RTS will be contacted by the city. According to a city news release from March, citizens can call the RTS Hotline at 940-235-­6991. When citizens have not been happy with RTS, Najar said Dillon has made personal phone calls and visits to citizens with issues.

For some of the advantages of the smart meters, Najar explained how meters will communicate with the water department’s main office and central control. He said once the installation is complete, they see the frequency of the usage and in real time can be seen by the customers and the city at large.

He added that meters can be shut off from billing and central control. From this, the city will also be able to see if the bills are being paid or not. If a meter has been tampered with, he said an alarm will sound off at central control, call police chief and water department staff. Najar also shared that there is a $15 reconnect fee for the smart meters.

In implementing the smart meters, Najar said an estimated $2,000,000 could be generated annually for the city of Roswell once the installation is complete.

Najar referenced the main breaks around town and said there are needed infrastructure improvements. If citizens notice leaks within 18 inches on either side of the meter, Najar said RTS must fix it. He added that, from an engineering standpoint, anything outside of 18 inches signifies a plumbing issue.

“The city of Roswell is a business selling water, capturing the water and sewage, roads — everything that we do — sanitation and landfill. …We have the fees because we have to make the revenue to pay the employees, pay the trucks and make the repairs that are necessary,” Najar said.

Najar said the services offered by the city are costly and any increases come with mathematical studies and a purpose.

City Manager Joe Neeb said the city is not a profit-making entity. Neeb said the meters will prevent high fluctuating costs in the future.

One citizen said other residents are complaining about calling the city and the water department being unhelpful or not taking responsibility. In response to her comment, Neeb said the city will fix that and increase education for employees on the proper procedure. Neeb apologized if citizens have been impacted that way.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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