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Board of Public Works urges support for Automatic Meter Read (AMR) at 2019 Annual Town Meeting

The following was submitted by the Board of Public Works:

Do you care about conserving natural resources and promoting energy efficiency? Are you concerned about changes in the climate where weather patterns have become more severe and unpredictable? Do you want to live in a town that complies with newly enacted requirements and best practices as set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you can help Wayland join a growing list of cities and towns in the Commonwealth that have adopted a better way to read, measure, and prevent waste in water supply and distribution systems. To support this important initiative, please come to annual town meeting starting on April 29th and vote in favor of the Auomatic Meter Reading article, sponsored by the Board of Public Works.

The cost to implement this new system, to replace our current inefficient, labor-intensive and sometimes inaccurate means of measuring water consumption, is $1.3 million which will be entirely paid for from the water enterprise fund. This means there will not be any borrowing or any impact on your taxes. It is debt neutral.

What is Automatic Meter Reading (AMR)? An AMR end-point device (a small sealed plastic box) is added to the outside of your residence near the existing water meter and uses radio communications to send encrypted data on water consumption, eliminating the need to physically read your water meter by a Department of Public Works employee. Usage data will be relayed from the endpoints to the DPW utilizing two or three data collectors across town located on existing telephone poles. Transmissions will take place in a fraction of a second which will contain no personal information. The digital transmissions are at a very low power, equivalent to that of a cell phone text message, an EZ Pass transponder or garage door opener. Since the DPW will also be replacing aging water meters in town based on funding approved at the 2018 annual town meeting in April, there will be a real savings and added efficiencies by installing the AMR end-point devices at the same time as replacing the water meters, totaling $330,000 in labor savings.

The benefits to pass AMR now can be summarized as follows:

  • Water conservation – Wayland currently loses 1.4 million gallons a year to undetected water leaks and the town does not meet the Massachusetts DEP standard of less than 10 percent of unaccounted for water. Moreover, Wayland currently exceeds the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection standard of 65 gallons per person per day. The newly enacted state environmental guidelines in July 2018 recommend all municipalities adopt AMR to improve water use management and better conserve this vital natural resource.
  • Compliance and Automation – The town will achieve labor cost savings by eliminating our current manual read system, which requires a DPW employee to physically read every water meter in town (over 5,000 meters in total) two times a year. The recently enacted state environmental guidelines now mandate quarterly billing frequency – for Wayland to comply with this new billing frequency requirement without AMR, then additional labor costs will be incurred by the DPW.
  • Early leak detection – More frequent, uniform and consistent reads of water usage will help homeowners and the DPW identify leaks immediately and avoid unnecessary water loss, high bills for unintended water consumption, and related costs and administrative burdens to homeowners and the town.
  • Property protection – Wayland homes have sustained significant property damage from flooded basements and other water losses while residents were away and unaware of leaking and broken pipes.
  • Improved customer service – Under the current system, the DPW and Board of Public Works process numerous water abatement requests from homeowners from undetected water leaks. The bills for which residents seek abatements are in the thousands of dollars. This involves a cumbersome, timely and inconvenient process for residents, town staff and volunteer board members to review these abatement requests and grant relief. Abatements granted for late-detected leaks totals the tens of thousands of dollars each year and is born by all ratepayers in town.
  • Cost savings – By passing the AMR article now, the water meter replacement project which was already approved by voters at the April 2018 annual town meeting, will allow the town to save $330,000 in installation costs by replacing water meters and the AMR end-point devices at the same time. This is a prudent way for the town to manage costs.
  • Funding is available – Funding for this article will come from the water enterprise fund, which will not involve borrowing or result in any increase in taxes to Wayland residents.

What concerns have been raised when this article has come before town meeting in the past? A small group of residents have raised health concerns related to the potentially harmful effects of the radio transmissions. There is no basis to this concern. Transmissions will occur only a few times a day (for approximately six one-hundredths of a second!) using a radio wave commonly used in cell phones, transponders, and Wi-Fi networks. Each transmission would be the equivalent of sending a text message but for shorter duration and from the exterior of the home.

AMR was implemented in the city of Boston with a total of 88,000 endpoints in 2004. Area communities that have also implemented AMI include Weston, Lincoln, Sudbury, Framingham, Natick, Hopkinton, N. Reading, Westwood, Westford, Acton, Newton, Needham, among other communities. Electric and natural gas utilities have converted customer meters to remote radio read systems.

We have the opportunity now as a town to replace an outdated and antiquated method of reading water usage which, under our current system, leads to millions of gallons of water loss, a costly and cumbersome water abatement process, and inconsistent billing practices. By passing AMR, we will greatly improve customer service with early leak detection, improved water conservation, more timely and frequent billing with residents able to monitor their water usage, and bring Wayland in conformity with new state requirements.

Thank you for your support for the Automatic Meter Reading article and we look forward to seeing you at annual town meeting starting on April 29th.

[For a more detailed presentation on the benefits of AMR, please go to https://goo.gl/7APqd2.]

Wayland Board of Public Works

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