Kingsport making switch to automated water meters

Matthew Lane • Jul 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport plans to replace its 36,213 water meters with a new, high-tech Automated Meter Reading system.

The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently approved a contract with Johnson Controls to install new water meters throughout the city. The new automated system will allow public works employees to simply drive within a half-mile of the meters, which will then radio the readings to the passing vehicle.

The system will require less manpower, reduce fleet fuel consumption, and more quickly identify possible water leaks. Under the contract with Johnson Controls, the city is guaranteed $909,503 in savings each year, while installation is estimated at $864,973 annually.

“Staff believes this is a significant efficiency well worth the effort,” City Manager John Campbell said Tuesday. “This new technology reads meters via a radio signal that is sent to a computer mounted in a city vehicle, which means employees no longer need to walk through neighborhoods to reach each water meter.”

The new Automated Meter Reading system will also significantly reduce labor required for each billing cycle, while also improving billing accuracy and customer service.

“The beauty of this contract is that it falls within the annual maintenance budget of the water department and will not cost customers anything extra. At the same time, the manufacturer indicates a 99 percent reading accuracy rating along with a 20-year life cycle for the meter itself,” said Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds.

The new Automated Meter Reading system could be upgraded at some point in the future, which could virtually eliminate the need for a service vehicle by automating the entire process with improved transponders.

Water customers can expect minimal disruption throughout the installation process, which is scheduled to begin in early fall and continue through next summer. Installation takes about 30 minutes per meter to complete and does require water to be turned off to the home during installation.

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