New water infrastructure testing starts in February

Published 6:23 pm Monday, January 14, 2019

Smart meters are on their way.

Meter SYS, Inc., the company behind the installation of the county’s new water meter-reading system, is on schedule begin its testing phase.

“There’s been a lot of preparatory work since July, when it was authorized by the county. We are on schedule. We will be testing the network through February,” Andy Honeycutt, with Meter SYS, Inc., told commissioners at last week’s meeting. Honeycutt attended the meeting to address the project’s status before the company begins engaging customers through the testing process.

The Advanced Metering Infrastructure project was approved last June by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, a replacement for aging infrastructure of the existing system. The smart meters will eliminate the need to manually read the county’s approximately 14,000 water meters, and instead will remotely transmit usage rates to the county office. The new system will also give employees access to usage rates when customers call with questions, as well as alerts when customers’ usage rates are abnormally high, so potentially costly problems can be addressed.

The AMI project comes at a cost of $4,712,588, with $212,588 of the total coming from Beaufort County’s share of sales tax refunded by the state. A loan of $4.5 million taken out by the county will pay for the rest, according to county Manager Brian Alligood.

Meter Sys, Inc. began switching out the infrastructure in October 2018. Testing will take place between February and April. Full deployment of the new system will take place between April 2019 and March 2020, and the project is expected to be completed no later than June 2020.

Public Works Director Christina Smith said customer billing is one of the reasons behind the switch — the outdated system was under-registering usage; another is cost-effectiveness.

“We’re trying to automate a very labor-intensive and a very costly process in order to get our readings for our meters on a monthly basis,” Smith said.