Some customers of the Houston County water system will no longer see meter readers each month.
Currently the county has four full-time meter readers who read 21,391 meters a month that serve over 30,000 people.
But that causes safety issues because many meters are along busy roads and there isn't always a good place to park. With the new system a radio device will be attached to each meter. Instead of having to get out of the vehicle to check the meter, readers will only need to drive by and the reading will register on a device in the vehicle.
Utilities Superintendent Dan Walker said the aim is for all of the meters to eventually transition to radio reading, but for now it will be just a small number along the busiest roads. On Tuesday, the County Commission approved a contract for $129,473 to equip 600 meters with the technology as well as upgrade the water department's computer system. The radio units cost $140 each, or $84,000 total.
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"It is something that has been long overdue," said Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker. "It has been problematic in these major thoroughfares. There is very little space for these trucks to pull off and read the meters."
The money for the purchase comes from the water department, which is a self-sustaining operation paid for entirely by customers.
It will take about three months for the units to be delivered and another three months for installation, Walker said. After that, those customers will no longer see meter readers.
Stalnaker pointed out that there is technology that would allow meters to be read automatically from a central location, so even a drive-by would not be needed. But he said that would cost over $8 million to do it countywide.
Walker said the first meters will go along Houston Lake Road south of Russell Parkway, Moody Road south of Ga. 96 and some on U.S. 41 north of Perry. Some are also going in the Haynesville and the Henderson area not so much because of the safety issue, Walker said, but because the meters are so spread out the drive-by reading will be much quicker.