Laurinburg officials say a wireless water and electric metering system being installed in the county will make it easier for residents to monitor their utilities usage and conserve.
Since February metal posts bearing wireless antennas have been popping up around the county. The antennas relay real-time usage data from meters to the city’s utilities billing department.
The wireless system will allow for automated billing as well as for real-time monitoring of usage by customers.
“The opportunity for conservation was a main selling point of the system,” said Kenton Spencer, chairman of the Laurinburg City Council. “People will be able to monitor their usage online, and to see accurately how their usage impacts their bill and hopefully choose to conserve.”
The council approved the $2.4 million project last year.
According to City Manager Ed Burchins, the project was “at first sold to the council based on potential personnel savings” that might come from eliminating meter-reading employees made redundant by the new technology.
“Instead what we will be doing instead of eliminating personnel is training the current personnel to become technicians on the new system,” Burchins said. “They will be trained to repair and service the new technology.”
Four employees from the city’s Customer Service Division will be trained to operate the new system.
“We are about 97 percent complete, with still a few hundred water meters to put in to place and demand meters on the electric side,” Burchins said.
All of the locations in the county served by the city of Laurinburg’s water system will be transferred to the new system before the end of the year.
The city’s electric customers, all of whom are within the city limits, will be transferred to the new system as well.
Burchins said that the city plans to send out alerts to customers warning them of “a huge spike in usage.”
“This could alert the customer to a break in a water line on their property or let them know that something is broken inside of their home, avoiding a potential problem,” Burchins said.
There will be extensive testing done on the new system before it is put online, including what Burchins called a “dual run” during which both the old and new systems will be operated concurrently.
“We will keep the current system in place during the dual run for quality control purposes and to allow us to be certain the new system is working adequately before it goes online,” Burchins said.
The new system, which Burchins calls “proven technology,” is being installed over a 65-mile area.
The city’s 6,200 electric customers will see their meters retrofitted with devices allowing for wireless transmittal of data.
Water meters, which Burchins said have a shorter lifespan than electric meters, are being replaced entirely in order to serve the city’s 8,000 water customers, most of whom are within the city limits.