Water Utilities meeting scheduled for today; Rate hike possible

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El Dorado Water Utilities will be calling a specially convened meeting at 9:00 a.m. today at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium to resolve an issue with outdated technology in the city’s water meters and settle matters with the company manufacturing the meters.

The decision is expected to be accompanied by a special tariff increase for EMU customers.

EWU, its Water Advisory Council, and the El Dorado Water and Public Works Board have been working to resolve the issue since early 2021, when Robert Edmonds, director of public works, and John Peppers, general manager of EWU, announced that the city’s water Meters may need to be replaced by this year.

In February 2021, Edmonds and Peppers city officials told city officials that the technology for the city’s cellular water meters — nearly 10,000 of which were purchased and installed in 2015 and 2016 at a cost of $2.2 million — is expected to become obsolete end of 2021.

The pair explained that the bandwidth for the meters’ transmitters is no longer being used as cellphone service providers are decommissioning the transmitters and upgrading to new ones.

The meters were manufactured by Badger Meter, a water metering and flow solutions company, and installed by Utility Metering Solutions – a product-agnostic company specializing in the design, construction, integration and maintenance of utility programs.

The gauges came with a 10-year warranty, and while the warranty is still good, the transmitters are unlikely to be, Edmonds and Peppers said.

Now the city must address the issue by 2023, Edmonds said, adding that ongoing discussions with Badger — including correspondence from attorneys — have been futile.

City officials have said the matter boils down to the cost of replacing the transmitters; how to cover the costs; if the 10-year warranty includes network coverage; and whether Badger has adequately explained whether the warranty comes with network coverage.

The purpose of today’s special session is to clarify the details of a proposed adjustment to water rates for EMU customers, Peppers said.

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