Ferris wants to install new water meters

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Will cost residents an estimated $450,000

By Rita Cook / News Editor

FERRIS – The city of Ferris may be dropping around $450,000 for new water meters soon. While the price might seem high, Ferris City Manager Bill Jordan said that cost was derived from quotes from the vendor as well as anticipated installation costs such as new gaskets and other parts.  

Jordan said current meters have outlived their useful life expectancy.

“The current meters are not working with the radio read system,” Jordan explained. 

“This is a problem with the meters and is common with meters that have outlived their service life.”

When water meters are not readable with the radio read system, it requires staff to manually read each meter every month. Jordan said the process takes about a week to complete and is prone to error. 

“Customers are seeing fluctuations in their bills because in many cases the meters are not read on the same day each month,” Jordan explained.  

The water meter installation, if approved, will take place in the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, and Jordan said if approved the city will move quickly to transition the new meters in to place.

At present, no request for bids have been issued by the city. State law requires sealed-bids on any purchase more than $50,000.

He advised no city staff meter readers will lose their job because of the new water meter installation.

There are currently 10 new water meters in place in the city of Ferris being used as a testing sample. 

If the water meter item and budget amount is approved by council the move will replace all water meters in the system except for the customers who already have the new meter for the testing phase.

Jordan said the money for the meters will not only come out of the upcoming 2018/2019 fiscal year budget, but staff was also looking at restructuring an existing bond to pay for the meters. 

“This will allow the city to purchase the meters without increasing the water rates to pay for them,” Jordan said.

Ferris resident’s water rates increased last year by three percent according to Jordan. He said that increase was solely due to increased wholesale water rates and sewer treatment rates, pass-through costs that do not generate revenue for the city.   

And while the new meters may not help residents save money on the water bill, Jordan said there will be a customer portal to allow customers to set notifications if water usage goes over a set limit. The new system will also notify customers if the meter detects a leak and will be read over a cellular network, therefore not requiring anyone to read the meter. 

“This will allow the meters to be read on the same day every month,” Jordan explained, “This will help stabilize billing amounts from month to month.”

Several Ferris business owners and residents were concerned over the cost, especially since the water quality is questioned.

“It’s not fit to drink,” said one speaker at a recent council meeting.

They wanted water quality improved over spending money to replace meters,

The meters installed now are mechanical and can only be read manually.  The current meters provide no access by the customer. 

The last time the City of Ferris changed its water meter system was around 2006. Meters were expected to last at a maximum of about 10 years.  

The new water meter system will also allow for city staff to more quickly respond to and address issues with the water and sewer system. 

“We have heard many complaints about the billing issues with the water department,” Jordan concluded. “We went live this month with a new billing software, but this is only half the equation. For the bills to be accurate, the meter must be accurate and accurately read. These meters will provide for that. Meter replacements are something that every city goes through, and Ferris is definitely in need.”

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