City of Saline Approves $2 Million Plan to Replace All Water Meters


City of Saline residents will soon have new water meters installed in their homes. City Council voted to approve a bid from Core and Main to replace all of the city's water meters. the bid will pay the company $195,836.52 annually for 10 years.

The new smart meters will give users new abilities to manage consumption through a website dashboard. The critical piece to this puzzle for the city is more accurate reads. City officials say current meter reads aren't accurate and the city isn't receiving proper revenue for the water it produces.

City Manager Colleen O'Toole recommended the new meters based on four points:

  • It replaces aging infrastructure, including many meters that are 20-30 years old. 
  • A work order system that will allow the Department of Public Works to track and record tasks - something that may be helpful with water quality issues.
  • A feature that allows the city and user to communicate. This could be very useful during water main breaks, boil water alerts, public notices, etc.
  • This project will help the city comply with state rules requiring inspections for lead and copper service leads.

Councillor Dean Girbach motioned to approve the bid. It was seconded by Councillor Jack Ceo. Girbach said the city's water/wastewater advisory group reviewed and approved the plan. He said the plan aligns with several city goals.

"A number of things that we need to accomplish that are required by EGLE, and if we want to be a progressive community and address the things that are coming down the road, this process will achieve those results," Girbach said. "We have old meters. We have issues about lead concerns that need to be addressed and this will do that. We have concerns about making sure the water is properly measured."

The $195,000/a year cost will be paid from the city's water fund - which means users should expect another increase in utility bills.

Councillor Janet Dillon asked DPW Director Larry Sirls about what sort of impact this program will have on the time of his staff. Sirls said he would personally spend a lot of time on public education efforts, including town hall meetings. He estimated staff would spend 50 hours locating

water service shutoff valves. 

Dillon had Sirls reiterate that it would be a third-party company doing most of the installation work.

"The hours for us are very minimal. It's not doing the installation," Sirls said.

Dillon asked O'Toole about the financial impact to residents. O'Toole said if no other efficiencies are realized, this will cost the average resident about $3 a quarter or $12 per year. But, O'Toole said, the program could pay for itself.

Councillor Jim Dell'Orco thanked Sirls for providing two more quotes for the project. The city initially had just one.

Dell'Orco asked about the batteries lasting 10-12 years and being in a position to have to replace all the batteries in a decade or so. Dell'Orco asked if this expense should be added a long-term equipment replacement fund. O'Toole said it was an excellent point. She also noted battery life is 15-17 years. The city will get an alert when a battery begins to fail.

"We are going to start planning for that replacement schedule," O'Toole said, estimating a 12-year replacement schedule. "It would be part of our capital improvement planning."

Girbach asked O'Toole if the city has a process in place for dealing with any users who do not wish to participate. O'Toole said she would discuss that with the city's legal team.

The motion passed unanimously.

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