As of August 24, 2020, the BGJWSC will begin transitioning to a more customer-friendly metering technology. In fact, you may be visiting this page after finding a notice hanging from your door knob. We’d like to share some details about this project with you here.
Please watch our short video regarding this project, the script of which is available in its entirety below it:
Details and History of our Metering System
The JWSC bills each of our customers using meter readings collected every 30 days. We have approximately 30,000 metered connections, none of which are ever averaged or estimated. Of those, close to 28,000 utilize a style of meter that transmits the reading over a radio signal that gets picked up when we drive by the meter. While this system is far more accurate and reliable than reading by hand, most were installed between 2004 and 2006, much beyond the 7 to 10 year predicted life span. At this point, the battery within the transmitter has reached the end of its useful life. Over 4,000 no longer transmit at all, which leads to delays in billing as the technician then has to read the meter by hand. Around 120 more of these transmitters die each month.
The meter register itself does not fail to function. It continues to turn and measure the water that flows thru it, much like the odometer in a car, but it takes considerably longer to read an increasing number of meters by hand each month, slowing down our ability to respond to other concerns, such as turn ons, emergency turn offs and service transfer requests. It also leads to overtime expenses that we’d like to avoid.
By the way, we do not doubt the accuracy of these meters. As any water meter ages, it becomes less accurate in your favor due to scaling from minerals that occur naturally in the water and also from wear on the moving parts. Overall, our meters have aged well over the last 16 years or so, with most still registering as much as 97 to 98 percent of what flows through them. So, our intent with this upgrade isn’t to chase after this 2 to 3 percent of flow that may be lost, though water conservation efforts are one of our chief missions. In fact, accounting for this loss is required by environmental oversight regulations enforced by the terms of our permitting with the US EPA. We want to partner with you as good stewards of this vital limited resource. While we have to bill what flows through the meter, we want to help ensure that the flow you are billed is what you actually consumed.
What are the Costs and Benefits of this Change?
The replacement of these meters is an expected cost of doing business that is already budgeted for within our existing rating structure. Beginning in late August of 2020, the JWSC will begin to roll out a new metering technology that will greatly increase our effectiveness and productivity. The most notable change is a shift to a more proactive alerting system to help you, as our service consumer, get advance notice of any flow that is outside of what you would normally expect to be billed.
One of the most common concerns we address in our customer service area is the sticker shock that is experienced when getting a bill that may be 2, 3 or even 10 times higher than usual. With this new system, you will be able to get a text message or email when your flow exceeds your set daily limit. That will give you plenty of time to grab the pipe wrenches or call a plumber before the problem gets too bad. In fact, over 60% of our leak adjustment requests are related to the replacement of a failing toilet bowl flapper that gets hung up. Much stress is caused by this simple $8 or $9 piece of rubber. I have personally experienced loss of about 45 thousand gallons in one month recently simply due to a toilet bowl flapper. Water loss is unavoidable on occasion as water likes to take the path of least resistance but we’d still like a better warning system than just reacting to a high bill.
Giving you this warning will also help increase our effectiveness in our customer service area. While I’m very pleased to report that we are better able to handle your requests by phone thanks to the creation of our dedicated call center two years ago, we’re still limited on how may technicians can respond in the field when a service request comes in.
Our meter services staff is made up of a supervisor, who dispatches the work orders and ensures a timely reading schedule, and four meter service technicians, who you’ll see driving through Glynn County daily to take care of our customers. As this project progresses, with about 7,500 meters being swapped out in the early months of each of the next four years, we will begin to reallocate the efforts of these four meter service technicians to make the best use of their time and talent. In fact, in an environment where the technical demands of the utility increase at the same pace as I’m sure they do in your own business or home, we are preparing these technicians to be able to serve a dual role in maintenance of the meters as well as maintenance of our IT assets. This will provide our staff with a more consistent support system for the hardware and software that is used to support both the administrative and the field staff at the JWSC.
How Long will this Project Take?
This first batch of meters will be limited to 250 so that our meter services, billing and customer service staff will be able to ensure that the setup works well for all of us. If you’re part of this pilot program, you may see our staff stop by to inspect or alter your meter setup to make way for our contractor, M&E Construction, to perform the work of replacing the meter in the box. We’ll also be installing a small device called a dual check back flow preventer that provides a required layer of protection should there be any risk of contaminants at your point of use that could pose a potential hazard to the rest of our customers. Once your connection has been updated, you’ll find a door knob notice indicating the steps that may be required to purge out any dirt or air that got trapped in the plumbing during our work.
Our goal for this process improvement is focused on an increase in customer satisfaction. I know that we’ll get there soon but apologize in advance for any inconvenience you may experience during this process. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this project, please free to reach out to me.
Director of Administration