Transmitters to be installed on water meters

December 20, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County water officials say they plan to install small radio transmitters on the county's 13,500 water meters, so they can be read from a car, which would be quicker and safer than the current method.

Although employees with the Berkeley County Public Service Water District wear orange vests and drive trucks with flashing lights on them, they're in danger when they read meters, said Bill Alexander, president of the water board.

"It's still a shudder at the first of each month," Alexander told the Berkeley County Commission Thursday morning.

Installing the short-range radio "transceivers" will take around 2 1/2 years, at a cost of $1.7 million, said Paul Fisher, executive director of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District.


Bond issue proceeds would pay the cost, Fisher said. However, he said customers can also expect to see a rate increase, but he said he was not sure when or by how much.

He said Thursday afternoon he was waiting to hear back from the state Public Service Commission on the matter.

With the radio equipment, a job that now takes 16 employees more than 10 days to finish every month could probably be done in no more than two days with two employees, Fisher said.

To read meters, employees would not have to leave their truck, which would need to go about 15 to 25 mph to pick up the electronic signals, Fisher said.

In the past, trucks had to pull off the road so an employee could get out and read the meters, Alexander said. Once, unable to pull completely off the road, a water truck was rear-ended by a car, injuring a water department employee, he said.

Some meters will be tested both electronically and manually to ensure accuracy, Alexander said.

After the equipment is in place, time spent reading meters will be spent isolating ruptures in valves, flushing water mains and fire hydrants, turning taps on and off, mapping valves and lines and calibrating meters, which must be done every seven years, water officials said.

"We're pretty excited about (the radio equipment)," Fisher said.

The water district is a separate entity from the County Commission and presented the information as an update to county officials.

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