Augusta Reaps Public Benefits through a Public-Private Partnership to Modernize Utility Monitoring
By Augusta Mayor Bob Young
March 29, 2004
A new program of water delivery modernization has been implemented in the city of Augusta, Georgia with multiple public benefits. Augusta's new program will promote water conservation, achieve fair and accurate billing for water use, improve the city's ability to deliver and maintain services, and most of all avoid any inconvenience to the many commercial and residential water users. This new program puts Augusta in the ranks of the most progressive providers of public services.
Accuracy is the best policy for the city of Augusta as it installs 6,000 commercial and 1,000 residential water meters equipped with Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology. As part of Benchmark 2010, a program designed to bring the best possible services to its customers, the Augusta Utilities Department is installing a new AMR system that will: virtually eliminate estimated billing; ensure accurate readings and improve city efficiency; allow regular monthly reads to more accurately determine actual usage; and, reduce the need for city's personnel to gain access to customer property.
Modernization Is Essential
Augusta contracted with Honeywell to provide installation management services and ongoing system maintenance. Honeywell's comprehensive water meter upgrade solution will help increase measurement accuracy for the city's progressive utility. Not only will billing for actual usage be improved, the city will now have a modern tool to measure consumption and help us to better conserve this precious resource. This is essential for the future use of water resources in Augusta because of regional pressures for inter-basin transfers
Best of all, the city is implementing all of these enhancements at no charge or rate increase to the customer. Older meters tend to under register water usage while new meters can accurately measure consumption. Some customers will experience a slight increase in their water bill after installation, but it will accurately reflect what water they actually use.
"The AMR system modernizes our meter'reading process, improving accuracy and increasing customer satisfaction," said Steve Little, Assistant Director for Finance and Administration for the Augusta Utilities Department. "Honeywell and their partners are leading experts in the meter services industry; the technology teams have a proven track record of delivering excellent results to customers worldwide."
The city is following a process that attempts to minimize customer inconvenience and achieve other public benefits simultaneously. Here's how it works: Augusta Utilities customers receiving the new technology are notified by mail with a letter explaining the process and are asked to call a specific number to set up an appointment to install the new meter. This number is a direct line to the company selected to install these meters on behalf of the Utilities Department. If attempts to make appointments are unsuccessful, installers visit homes and businesses on behalf of Augusta Utilities requesting to change the water meters. The certified installers have a picture ID, uniforms, and drive clearly marked vehicles. Standard installation should take less than an hour and there is a brief interruption of water service. There is no cost to the customer to install the new meters.
Utilizing state-of-the-art technology, the new automated water meters transmit a remote signal that enables the city to electronically read meters from a mobile unit. All new Badger water meters equipped with state-of-the-art Itron wireless transmission technology are being installed in this project. The Augusta Utilities Department uses vehicles outfitted with Itron computers and radio frequency transceivers to collect meter data accurately and efficiently, simply by driving past the metered property.
Water Customer Service Satisfaction
How are customers responding to the meter upgrade? "Most of them say 'It's about time'", states Michael Kimmelman, Honeywell's Program Manager for the Augusta project. "Customers are happy with the new meters, the city is happy because it can provide better customer service, and we take pride in the fact that we are able to deliver a quality service that will benefit customers and the utility alike."
The city chose Honeywell because they have installed more than two million meters equipped with AMR technology. They are an industry leader in meter services. The city was attracted to Honeywell because of their extensive experience, and their ability to provide self-funding financing for the upgrade.
"By working closely with the Augusta Utilities Department during the design process, we were able to develop a customized solution that will deliver long-term value to the city and its customers, said Kevin McDonough, Vice President and General Manager for Honeywell Energy Services. "The new metering solution will not only help the city operate more efficiently, it will also help generate more accurate and timely billing data for its customers."
Since the project began in July 2003, Honeywell has installed more than 5,000 meters. The city of Augusta is well on its way to implementing a solution that will bring better customer service to its vital commercial market segment.
For More Information
If you want to learn more about our modernization Partnership with Honeywell get in touch with our Augusta Utilities Department, or if you want to know more from Honeywell and if their modernization services are right for your city visit their websites: www.honeywell.com, or http://www.acs.honeywell.com/.