Because of issues with the Town of Sumrall’s wireless meter reading system and technology upgrades, residents may see their water bills come in later than usual, and with charges for more weeks of service than they are accustomed to.
Mayor Joel Lofton said although the amount due on the bills may be higher, residents aren’t being charged extra and no one will be liable for more than their metered usage.
“They’re not being charged for anything they didn’t use, but rather than having four weeks worth of water, now they’ll have five (weeks), so it will look like more,” he said. “Of course, the next billing cycle, they’ll have fewer weeks of water.
“So it should even out, but it’s just aggravating. Folks expect their bill, they want to get it on time, they want to pay it on time. When that doesn’t happen, it’s an aggravation.”
Lofton said when it came time this month to transfer usage data to the company that sells the readers, that process went as expected. However, shortly after the data was transmitted, the billing company went through an update that failed to work properly.
As a result, when the data was sent back to town officials in usable form, a large number of accounts had no data.
“It took several days until they realized they didn’t get the data from us, but after their system analyzed it, it lost it,” Lofton said. “Unfortunately, they could not go back and get it – once we send it, it’s there, and they had completely lost the data.
“So we’re having to go back through and re-read meters (this week), which will put us several days late. It’s kind of an aggravating thing – we checked, and though we had problems through the year, this time our people did exactly what they should have, and it was an update to (the company’s) system that caused us this problem.”
Officials have had problems with the meter reading system several times recently, as multiple of the readers have failed so far this year.
“The reader is basically a special laptop that is calibrated to the meters,” Lofton said. “You can’t just use any laptop; it comes from the company that we purchase meters from, and they’re what is called regular-read meters.
“It’s nothing that we’ve been able to identify that our personnel are doing. The company can’t figure out what’s going on, but we’ve had multiple of the readers crash this year.”
Once raw data is sent back to town officials, crews drive throughout town, at which point the meters are radio-transmitted to the readers. Sumrall features approximately 700 service meters.
“Once that data is in that device, that has to come back to Town Hall, and it has to be downloaded from that device and forwarded to the company,” Lofton said. “Basically, they take the data that is gathered through the radio-read, and they convert it to a useable format.
“Whatever the radio sends to that laptop, they give it back to us in gallons (of water) used. So that’s part of the contract with that company.”