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City close to finalizing replacement contract for 1,500 aging water meters

The city of Williams expects to save around $380,000 per year in lost revenue after replacing about 1,500 old water meters.  Ryan Williams/WGCN

The city of Williams expects to save around $380,000 per year in lost revenue after replacing about 1,500 old water meters. Ryan Williams/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The city of Williams is one step closer to recapturing its lost water revenue after city council members approved a bid for the water meter replacement program at their March 26 meeting.

Council members voted to award the bid to Mountain States Pipe and Supply. The company's bid for replacing about 1,500 water meters, installing three towers that will read the meters, and completing any concrete and dirt work came out to $1,412,990. Along with a staff contingency of $141,299, the total project cost came to $1,554,289.

The city is undergoing this project because as water meters age, they gradually start to under-register the amount of water customers use, meaning residents are paying for less water than they are actually using.

City staff estimates that the city is not billing for about 40 percent of the water it is producing, which translates to about $380,000 in lost revenue annually.

City Manager Brandon Buchanan has said in the past that he expects that once the new meters are installed, the city will recoup less than that amount because some customers will decrease their usage instead of paying for the full amount of water they had been using.

The water meter replacement program is one of the projects that the city will pay for using its $3.5 million Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) loan. About $1.5 million of the loan amount was allotted for this project. Since it is a green project, the water meter replacement program allowed for $1.5 million of the loan amount to be eligible for forgivable principal.

The additional revenue that the city will collect from the new accurate water meters will go toward repaying the WIFA loan.

Mountain States Pipe and Supply was the only company that submitted a comprehensive bid to the city for the water meter replacement program.

Although $1.5 million of the WIFA loan was specifically allocated to this project, the remainder of the cost will come from the rest of the loan money.

Councilman Frank McNelly asked Public Works Director Kyle Christiansen if city officials have researched the company.

Christiansen said yes, adding "They come with an extensive background in projects like this, not just parts and sales, but also being able to coordinate a large scale project."

Although two towers would likely be enough to read all of the water meters in town, the company is going to install three.

"They like to have redundancy," Christiansen said. "So they're going to locate those antennas where we can reach the community. To give you guys an idea of what the system can do, it literally on flat level ground can read meters 60 miles away. So we could read Tusayan's meters if we wanted."

Vice Mayor Don Dent said the topography of the region could complicate things.

"The only issue is we're not on flat level ground," he said. "We have antennas on top of Bill Williams that won't reach all of the police cars in spots. That's my concern."

Christiansen said Mountain States has done a study to determine the best locations for the towers. Two potential locations could be on top of the fire station on Rodeo Road or on top of a water tower on the south side of town, which would add some height to the towers.

Councilman Craig Fritsinger asked about getting the project bonded, and Buchanan said he would discuss the possibility with the company as part of the contract negotiations.

The final contract will come back to the council for approval. WIFA officials will also need to approve the documents. Once everything has been approved, officials believe the project will take about six months to complete.

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