Study to look at smart meter technology

Smart meters provide more accurate readings, detect leaks and other problems.

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WALLA WALLA - City Council approved a $33,000 utility meter study that will look at using automated smart meter technology.

The study, which was approved 6-1, will be paid for by previously budgeted consultant fees, which are ultimately paid for by ratepayers.

It will look at using smart meters to connect the city to customers via radio frequencies.

The smart meters provide more accurate readings, detect leaks or back flow issues, report tampering or theft and lower operating costs, according to city documents.

They are also expensive, especially when coupled with a state-mandated future meter replacement project that will require Walla Walla and other cities to begin replacing older meters that contain lead starting in 2014.

"It could be as much as a $5 million investment. So in my mind, spending a little up-front money to make sure that we are getting the technology that is going to meet the needs that we want and answer the questions that we have is a pretty important step as we head down such a significant road and investment," Public Works Director Ki Bealey said.

Council Member Shane Laib cast the one dissenting vote.

"I am not disputing that we don't need to move forward with this program. I totally do agree. But I really think we should have looked at an in-house solution first or at least given it to Council for discussion," Laib said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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