By Dave Marner, Managing Editor

Owensville aldermen in a special meeting Monday voted unanimously to change out all city water meters rather than retrofit more than an estimated 400 with a new wiring harness.

A change order will alter the contract awarded Feb. 11 to Schulte Supply out of Edwardsville, Ill., which was to provide new radio readable meters for $330,368.19.

The new contract will have the city paying $391,418 and will leave the city with 1,350 brand-new meters with full warranties. Schulte Supply was the low bidder on a bidding process that had three different vendors competing against each other to provide the best proposal, according to City Administrator Randy Blaske.

With the change order, the city will have identical meters (the Neptune brand) with warranties all beginning this spring once they are all installed. The city has around 800 of the Neptune radio read meters in the system but those are at, or near, the end of their warranties. 

The remainder of the metering system is a mix of Ipearl and Badger equipment. Some of the Badger units were more than 30 years old, said Blaske. An adapter and wiring harness fix was needed on all Ipearl units.

Schulte Supply employees began the upgrade process the weekend of March 12 by attempting to replace, or update, existing meters located inside city residences. On their first weekend of the installation, they discovered the wiring harness on “four of five” meter sensors they encountered required an upgrade from two wires to three wires to accommodate the Neptune system.

Aldermen on March 15 were made aware of the situation.

Although Schulte Supply was able to change out 150 of an estimated 550 meters — which would require a new adapter for an antenna to connect existing Neptune meters for radio-reading capability — aldermen came to a clear realization. Even with the conversion, the city would be left with older meters — many no longer under any warranty or nearing the end of their remaining warranty.

Aldermen tabled a decision that night on completing the project with the wiring harness adaptations and inquired about obtaining a price quote for replacing all the meters.

Aldermen asked for a quote on replacing all the meters and agreed by consensus to move forward when clearer cost estimates were available.

In the special session March 22, aldermen were presented with two options. The first, the fix on the wiring harness, would cost $10,400. The second, replacing all the meters, would cost $61,050.

Aldermen approved the replacement option. 

An estimate given during the March 15 meeting for the complete replacement was $80,000.

“For the additional $61,050, we’ll have all new meters,” said Blaske. “All one vendor. All identical.”

Ward 1 Alderman Kevin McFadden’s added a second motion which was approved to surplus out the existing meters after a “suitable time” had elapsed. 

Jeff Kuhne, the city’s public works director, had told aldermen on March 15 that his predecessor, John Roach, had started replacing meters in the system around 10 years ago.

Those units could still have some resale value.

City Clerk Bobbi Limberg said aldermen wanted to make sure the new meters were all installed before the old ones were taken off the city’s inventory. Some were expected to be sold off for scrap. 

Others, like the newer ones replaced within the past seven or eight years, could be of use to another municipality seeking replacement meters or spares.

Aldermen had considered spending up to $100 in parts and labor to make the fix on the wiring harness or spending up to $230 for a new meter with a full warranty.

Limberg said the city has $200,000 budgeted for the project in the 2020-21 fiscal year which ends June 30. She said the city can use Capital Expenditures funds for the remainder of the project. There are an estimated 250 meters located inside residences in older homes across the city. 

Blaske said industry experts say meters begin to lose calibration after 10 years. Replacing all the meters at once will give the city’s system a uniform set of meters with radio reading capabilities which all begin their warranties in the same time frame.

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