The city of Portales is halfway through four-year project of installing a new automated water meter system. according to City Manager Tom Howel.
Howell said city water department workers have spent the last two years replacing outdated water meters with meters that use an automatic reading system, eliminating the need to physically read meters, saving the city about $25,000 a year in wages.
He said 1,500 meters have been replaced over the last two years and 500 are set to be replaced in the next fiscal year.
He said it will take another two years to finish replacing the rest of the meters.
Howell said the new meters send radio signals of readings to reading stations at Rotary Park and the Portales Police Department, which will then send the results to the main server at the Memorial Building.
“By doing this, we can save ourselves having to hire an additional meter reader,” Howell said. “The current meter reader will just serve a different function when this fully goes into operation. No one lost a job over the deal though.”
Howell said the city sets aside $250,000 each fiscal year for water meter replacement and maintenance.
The meter upgrade, which costs a total of $1 million, is being funded from the fiscal budget over a four-year span.
“Instead of going out and buying them all at one time, we are replacing them in steps,” Howell said of the new meters. “When it comes down to replacing them, we can just change them to the new system instead of being flooded with 5,000 meters at one time.”
Howell said many of the meters being replaced were 20 years old, so placing the new meters in will allow for 100 percent accurate water readings.
He said workers only have to shut off water for a few minutes to install new meters.
“What we’ve been doing is vacuuming sand and other things out of the meter box then they pull the actual meter out of the ground, record the reading then put the new meter in the ground,” Howell said of the process. “For a big meter, it takes a little more time but we just work with the people that are there and knock on the door and tell them what we’re doing.”
Howell said most Portales water meters are three quarters of an inch to an inch wide but certain industrial ones for schools and businesses can reach up to 8 inches.