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Addleton has work left to do to convince council to buy new meters

Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton is having a tough time convincing the city council to move forward with the purchase and installation of “smart meters” for the city utility department.
The council budgeted $500,000 for new electric meters, $350,000 for new gas meters and has obtained a $1,189,645 loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for retrofitting and replacing 4,200 water meters and installing the infrastructure to make the new system operational.
Rather than solicit bids for all of the project, Addleton proposed this week going out to bid for just the water meters.
As part of the agreement with GEFA, $475,858 of the principle of the approved loan will be forgiven.
Councilman Jerry Cox questioned the city manager extensively Monday night about projected savings by implementing the new system and operational issues regarding the new system.
Addleton says that one full-time position within the city utility operation could be eliminated and possibly one vehicle as well. The city manager said the new system would allow the city to be able to quickly identify leaks on the customer’s side, but said it would take additional investment for meters within the system to try and help identify losses on the city’s side of the system.
Cox said he had talked with city officials in Moultrie and they reported positive things about the system.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas questioned purchasing the water meters now and not the electric and gas meters.
“Where is the savings of running two systems?” Douglas asked.
“We want all three, but I thought if we did this we could come back later and do the gas and electric,” Addleton said. The city manager admitted it does not make sense to install smart meters only for water.
Douglas said a vote on moving forward with the new water meters would be a vote on the gas and electric meters and noted he had issues with investing in new gas meters.
Councilman Douglas, who also chairs the council’s finance committee, also stated he would want to see an extended warranty on the Sensus meters being recommended by the city manager after issues with other water systems in north Georgia have been reported.
Councilman Ernest Cloud shared with the council discussions he has had with John Mariah, executive director of the Cairo Housing Authority, about installing individual meters for each of the public housing apartments. The cost of the project, according to Addleton, is approximately $75,000.
“Our cost or theirs?” Councilman Cox asked.
Councilman Cloud said that would be something the council would need to discuss with the housing authority.
“I can’t see us doing it for $75,000,” Cox responded and Cloud remarked, “Well, that’s up to the council.”
Councilman Douglas said he doubted the housing authority would invest that much either and noted that was a topic for another day.
“So where are we? What have we got to do right now?” Cox asked.
“At some point we need to execute the GEFA loan. We don’t have to do it today, but it will take 30 days to advertise and 30 days to schedule a pre-bid meeting. So, if we advertise in November it would be January before we could award a bid,” the city manager said.
None of the members of the council would offer a motion or a second to proceed.
Addleton then asked for direction from the council. “If you’d like to kill this that’s fine. I just need to know what I need to do,” he said.
Cox asked for more time to digest the proposal and understand the project better.
“We want to take our time and get it right. I do think we would be missing a huge opportunity if we don’t do this project with this level of loan forgiveness,” Addleton said.
Cox said it was not his intention to kill the project and asked that the subject be reconsidered at the next meeting.
Councilman Douglas said from his viewpoint there are no savings to operating two systems and he questions if there will truly be savings with the new system once it is operational. “I’ve got to be convinced how we will pay for the gas meters,” Douglas said.
The city manager said gas sales are up and with a cold winter he predicts the city will profit once again from gas sales. He recommended banking the profits in a reserve account to pay for the new meters.
“That would take 10 years,” Douglas said. He also questioned the recommendation of using city forces to install the electric meters but to contract the installation of the water meters.
Addleton suggested that Energy Services Director Rod Prince appear before the council at the next meeting to make the case for doing the installation in-house. He also plans to invite a representative of HD Supply Waterworks to make a presentation on the Sensus meters.

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