Lake City water meter change could mean higher bills for customers

LAKE CITY, SC (WBTW) – Lake City will soon use an automated water meter system. After 20 years of reading the meters on a monthly basis, Chief Meter Reader Anthony Brown says residents can expect a more steady water bill, but the price could rise slightly.

Brown and four other meter readers manually read more than 3,400 readers in Lake City each month, but Lake City Administrator Shawn Bell explains the city is moving to a system that’s been in the works for more than two years.

“A lot of our meters have been in the system for decades or longer,” said Bell. “A lot of times they can’t be read immediately they have to have water poured on them just to get the dirt off of them. A lot of times our customers are really skeptical of the readings. So that’s why we’re switching to an automated reading system.”

The Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system will be placed on two water towers in the city. One on Church Street and the other on Morris Street. Ferguson Waterworks will place a receiver on each water meter throughout the city. Radio frequencies from the device will automatically read water meters in the city.

Bell said the automated meter system will send a notification if there is a water leak or meter tampering. Also, people in the city will be on the same billing cycle regardless of how many days are in the month.

“One month you might have 28 days in the billing cycle, the next month 32 or 35. And that can be very frustrating for customers trying to budget,” said Bell.

The automated system costs the city a little more than $1.5 million. The city is using a revenue bond and the other portion of the project was paid with tax money.

Many people in the city have been asking Brown if the new system will make their water bill increase.

“With the new meter system coming in, being that we have a lot of old meters, the new system will give an accurate reading, said Brown. “Some customers may see an increase in their water bills.”

Brown also said many people are concerned about the meter readers losing their job. City leaders say the five city meter readers will be reassigned to other jobs in the city. Two workers will work closely with the new system.

“The city is prepared to move us around so there is no intention of us losing our jobs. So that’s a good thing,” Brown said happily.

Bell said Ferguson Waterworks will begin placing the automated device on water meters in neighborhoods and on businesses in the city this week.

City leaders hope to have the automated system up and running by July.