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Flossmoor advances water meter replacement project, embracing more accurate technology

During the Monday, July 17, meeting, the Flossmoor Village Board voted 5-0 to approve more than $1 million in expenditures on a service agreement and materials for the Water Meter Replacement Project. Trustee James Mitros was absent.

The board approved a service agreement with Sensus Software and purchase of equipment from Core & Main of Mokena in an amount of not to exceed $1,100,506.

The board shared their excitement over the evolving project. 

“I am as excited about this as I am about the Berry Lane Project,” remarked Trustee Rosalind Mustafa. “You can imagine my excitement.”

As the village gears up to replace the 2,700 water meters, Public Works Director John Brunke explained how this project will improve the current system. 

“The village’s existing water meter database has been found to include inaccuracies in the past,” remarked Brunke. He explained how the data is manually entered, and with manual data entry, there is a chance for error, and there is no way to check it. 

In the future, the new project will update all data electronically and vendors and village officials can screen for quality control. 

Due to the inaccuracies with the current water meter system, there may be a sticker shock when the new meters are installed, because residents in some cases might not have been paying for all the water they used.

“We have had a bit of sticker shock in the past,” stated Brunke. “Those bills go up because they technically get free water for a while, so it’s a little bit of a shock.”

Despite this challenge, Brunke explained that this is where the new technology plays a role. Logging into the new system and seeing their account may allow residents to more closely monitor their own water usage. 

Brunke detailed how something like a running toilet can significantly impact a resident’s water bill. Because water bills go out quarterly, a simple issue like a running toilet can cost thousands of dollars without a resident even realizing it until they open their account a few months later. 

Baxter & Woodman and Public Works staff have been working to determine the best meter equipment for the Village’s water infrastructure. Two companies, Core & Main (a Sensus vendor) and United Systems & Software (an Itron vendor), were interviewed in May to determine the best next step.

Core & Main, Flossmoor’s current meter vendor, has been in business for over a decade. United Systems & Software, on the other hand, provides Itron equipment, the same system ComEd uses for its smart meter infrastructure.

During his presentation to the board, Brunke explained how the village considered interviewing the Itron vendor to achieve economies of scale using ComEd’s vendor and meter radio communication system. 

After careful consideration, they decided to stick with the Sensus platform. The village would have had to replace 1,100 Sensus IPerl meters and 100 Omni meters with the Itron platform, which would be more expensive. Being part of another utility’s operating system would limit the village’s ability to control system upgrades and costs.

The water supply for the village of Flossmoor is sourced from Homewood. The water source for Homewood is Lake Michigan, obtained through Chicago Heights, which purchases it from Hammond, Indiana.

The Sensus system, which employs radio-read technology, emerged as the preferred option for efficiently transmitting meter information to the Village.

“The Sensus project line and what they have in terms of their analytical software is really robust. It’s going to be a huge benefit to us and the village,” explained Brunke.

Brunke highlighted some of the advanced features of the new water meter system, including a customer portal where residents can see the breakdown of their water usage and even set alarms to remind them to monitor their use better. He explained that this new system also could update every 15 minutes for a more accurate reading, allowing the public works staff to catch possible leaks or issues before a significant problem arises. 

“We’ll have a better way to look at water usage throughout the town and in different neighborhoods. A big thing that this meter project can do is give us the tools that’s much better for us to find water leaks in our system,” Brunke stated. 

Furthermore, Brunke explained how the public works staff will have access to a master meter that alerts them of systems leaks or issues, allowing them to react quickly. 

The approved FY24 Budget includes $1,849,588 for the Water Meter Replacement Project, split among the General Fund, the Water Fund, the Sewer Fund, and the American Rescue Plan Act Fund (ARPA). Because the project is eligible for ARPA funding, it will be funded primarily through this source, followed by Water and Sewer Funding and General Fund contributions as a last resort.

Core & Main submitted a quote for the project’s service agreement and meter equipment, totaling $1,080,506. According to Brunke, the Village intends to purchase the equipment from Core & Main as a single source purchase and then solicit bids from qualified plumbing contractors for the installation phase, estimated to cost $612,000. 

According to the memo, the project is on track to begin meter installations after Oct. 1, with completion expected in April 2024, with an estimated total cost that is less than budget. During installation, public works staff also will include comprehensive communication plans tailored to residents’ needs, ensuring a smooth and informative process. 

Brunke further detailed how the purchase order will include a $20,000 minor contingency amount to cover potential inaccuracies in the existing meter inventory database, such as meter size and quantity discrepancies.

“This is really an opportunity to improve our water meter infrastructure database on this project,” Brunke stated. 

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