Claremore Daily Progress

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December 18, 2013

Council will vote Monday on Smart Meters service agreement

CLAREMORE — The Claremore City Council decided Monday to move forward with an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) — or Smart Meters — service agreement with General Electric.

The pending agreement still needs approval at a special meeting on Dec. 23.

“There’s been a lot of thought and discussion trying to determine what best meets the city’s needs moving forward,” said City Manager Jim Thomas. “This is a tool that will assist in providing quality service to the citizens of Claremore.”

Larry Hughes, City of Claremore’s Director of Electric Utility, said the 10-year agreement, which the AMI committee unanimously voted to recommend to the council, is in the amount of $3.99 per meter a month.

“Currently, with 17,971 meters, the total comes to the amount of $8,604,514.80 over the 10 years,” Hughes said. “This is not a rate change.”

Thomas said the cost has come down “greatly” due to negotiation and the competitive bidding process, in which four vendors participated.

GE will replace all water and electric meters in the city and estimates 6-to-8 months to complete installation of the new Smart Meters.

Hughes noted there are many cost advantages to having a service agreement with GE versus city ownership of the system.

“There are no payments until installation is complete and the city is collecting billable data,” he said. “GE covers all hardware equipment in case of a natural disaster. The service agreement includes warranty on all meter and gate keeper equipment.”

In addition, the agreement includes a 10-year guarantee that the system is fully operational and the city has a buyout option at the end of the agreement or anytime it chooses.

Right now, Hughes said there are 12 employees who maintain the city’s 600 miles of overhead service lines.

The new system will mean greater efficiency for the department, he said.

“It’s a huge trouble shooting tool,” he said, noting it will help them with outage detection, service prioritization, and response time.

It also means more accurate readings.

“The new meters will tell you what you are really, truly using,” Hughes said. “There is a possibility that people’s bills will increase, but that’s because you’ll have meter that’s accurate.”

One concern that has been expressed about Smart Meters, Hughes said, is their safety.

“It’s regulated by the FCC. Some people say that’s not good enough, but that’s who regulates everything; that’s what we live by,” he said.

Hughes explained that in comparison to cell phones, laptop computers and microwave ovens, Smart Meters have a very low radio frequency power density.

“The effects, if any, are very minimal compared to what you’re exposed to today,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Bill Flanagan asked if there would be an option for those who didn’t want a Smart Meter due to health concerns.

Hughes said staff is sensitive to that and is currently exploring a couple of different possibilities.

Councilor Mark Lepak said he believes the city has done its due diligence in studying the issue.

“I’m convinced the homework’s been done on the health side,” he said. “In the end what you will have is better performance out of our electric and water departments...If you’ve got dependable electric and water, that’s a quality of life issue.”

He said the new system is ultimately about improving the city’s infrastructure.

“I think this helps us short term. I think it helps us long term,” Lepak said.

Hughes said Smart Meter technology is “the future,” and is currently being used in Duncan, Ponca City, Tulsa, Owasso, Skiatook and other cities across the state and country.

“It’s growing exponentially,” he said. “This is an investment in our future. This is a must for us to move forward in our technologies.”

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