Council approves $8.2 million advanced water meter project

Published 4:00 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

By Buzz Trexler
Star Correspondent
Water-related projects dominated Elizabethton City Council actions Thursday night, including an $8.2 million advanced water meter project Water Resources General Manager Jonathan Pleasant says will not only combat water loss but improve customer service.

Council members unanimously approved a master services agreement with Consolidated Pipe and Supply Co., a Birmingham, Ala., company, to install an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system using the Master Meter system. The agreement includes new meters, software, and network infrastructure for the AMI system. Also included are significant metering hardware upgrades to standardize waterline connections, meter boxes and lids, residential check valves, and shut-off valves.

The cost of the full AMI system is $5,797,387 with an additional $2,413,132 of infrastructure improvements funded by a combination of city and county American Recovery Act water
infrastructure grants, American Rescue Plan funds, and Water Retained Earnings.

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“We’ve been working on this AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) project, these meters, since 2018, I think it was,” Pleasant said after the meeting. “It’s been a long time coming, big project. It’s the biggest project we’ve had in decades. Of course, we’re going to change every meter in the system.”

Pleasant says it currently takes a month to read all the meters in the system. “After this is done, I’ll be able to read them in 10 minutes.”

When asked how much water leakage the system is currently experiencing, Pleasant said it’s a difficult question to answer. “We did a random sample test of our meters and based on that I’m predicting at least 10 percent, maybe as much as 15,” Pleasant said, adding, “That’s hard to say.”

In addition to detecting leakages, Pleasant said he expects the new system will improve customer service. “Currently, we see the meters once a month when we go read them, and if a customer’s not aware of a leak, or something’s going on with their water usage … it may be days or weeks before we find out about it. It’s already too late at that point.” With the AMI system, the customer can be notified within hours of a leak, or what is called “continuous operation.”

The system will also aid the water department in determining more accurately how much water the system is losing and will also provide customers with a portal where they can set a water usage budget and alert the system of planned continuous water usage, such as filling a pool.

DOE RIVER WATER LINE

City Council also approved on second reading an amendment to the capital budget for the Doe River Water Line Crossing Project, which involves water lines that serve as the primary means of transporting about 75 percent of the city’s water from both the Hampton and Valley Forge water treatment plants. Flooding and erosion of the original concrete shielding have left the pipes more exposed in the riverbed, according to a summary provided to council members. The city originally planned to build a dedicated utility bridge, but the state Department of Transportation has approved a plan to relocate the lines onto the existing U.S. 19E bridge that crosses Doe River near Riverbottom Road in Valley Forge.

The project, planning for which began in 2019 and has to be completed by June 30, was originally budgeted at $3,040,477 but has increased to $5,241,352. The project is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the Water Department’s Retained Earnings/Cash Reserves, an Appalachian Regional Commission grant, and the State Revolving Loan Fund.

The City Council also approved a $24,880 contract with Mattern and Craig Engineering, Johnson City, for engineering services related to replacing a 2-inch water line to increase water line capacities as the Tennessee Department of Transportation replaces a 223-foot-long steel bridge on Smalling Road. A Water Resources summary explains that the bridge is one of the only available crossings of the Watauga River in west Carter County.

A $31,770 contract with Mattern and Craig Engineering for services related to the rehabilitation of the one-million-gallon water tank on Paty Hill was also approved by council members. According to the Water Department, the tank was built in 1968 and serves most of the central business district, including downtown. The size and intricate support structure make it the most expensive tank in the system to maintain. The tank will be sandblasted, painted, and undergo structural repairs.

AMONG OTHER COUNCIL ACTIONS

City Council members also:

— Approved a $296,350 contract with Summers-Taylor Inc., of Johnson City, to modify a storm drain behind West Town Shopping Center on Hudson Drive. On Aug. 1, 2023, the Street and Sanitation Department was notified that a large hole in the ground had developed behind the shopping center on Hudson Drive. Workers discovered a 48-inch corrugated metal pipe had rusted through and failed.

— Ratified a $300,000 Downtown Improvement Grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to renovate building facades in the downtown area and replace a downtown sound system. The Planning Department is working with the First Tennessee Development District on an application that will be made available to the public at a 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29 informational meeting.

— Received a report from Elizabethton Police Chief Jason Shaw that Macy Ashley started as the new records clerk on Dec. 18, 2023, and Eric Norman joined the department on Jan. 3 as a corporal, and Mitchell Tolley was hired as an entry-level officer. The two positions had been vacant since the fall. Shaw said an entry-level officer is in the field training process, which should be completed in February.