Red Springs officials not sold on smart meters
RED SPRINGS — Town leaders are having second thoughts about the purchase of smart meters.
During a regular meeting of the Red Springs Board of Commissioners, board members learned that the meters bought in October 2017 have created budgetary problems for the town.
The meters measure home use of water and electricity, and were designed to save money for Red Springs. But, an average of 108 work orders per month are coming into the town Finance Department for requests to re-read meters and adjust bills, and some customers are having issues every month, said Heather Hunt, finance director.
The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved budget amendment to address financial issues caused by water leaks, faulty meter signaling and incorrect readings.
Commissioner Duron Burney made it clear that he did not vote for the meters.
“I didn’t feel like we were ready,” Burney said. “It wasn’t sustainable to take on the debt. It’s like putting new wine into old wineskins.”
Red Springs was fixing light poles and power lines, but the task wasn’t completed.
“The job was never finished,” Burney said. “They did the job halfway, but why not finish the process, then do the meters?”
Mayor Edward Henderson made it clear Tuesday that the problems must be corrected.
“This is the town’s error, not the consumers’,” Henderson said. “We’ve got to make it right.”
Commissioner Caroline Sumpter said the town is not using the system the way it could be. The system is designed to be able to read, in 15-minute increments, the amount of power or water being used in residences. A smart phone should be able to see this data, she said.
“We need to utilize the system to full,” Sumpter said. “We need training in the front and back end, and the nuances. I want it done before Christmas.”
“How do you keep getting misread meters?” Burney said. “Doing this month in and month out. Someone’s not doing their job.”
In other business, the commissioners:
— Approved a request for an additional $40,000 to assist with cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Florence, for a total of $200,000. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the town.
— Approved the engineering contract for the $7 million expansion of the water plant. The design phase is expected to be complete in August 2019.
— Approved and sent to the Planning Committee a request for annexation for 25 acres of land near West Side Baptist Church to be used as a sports complex. The construction is estimated to cost between $2 million and $3 million. The request would allow city water and sewer to be hooked up to the center, and for the police and fire departments to respond to problems there.
— Approved a conditional-use permit that would allow the establishment of a cemetery on 1.1 acres of land off Old Lowery Road. The cemetery would contain 720 grave sites.