2008-11-12 / Features

Automatic Meter Reading Program To Start In January

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

The days of the water man coming to read your meter are numbered as installation of Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology begins in January in Queens.

"DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) is moving into the 21st century. There will be no need for inspectors to come to homes to read meters," Karen Ellis, a borough coordinator for the city Department of Environmental Protection said at the October meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet.

The DEP representative said the automation of approximately 831,000 meters serving almost eight million people in New York City will improve customer service and provide an early warning system for leaks that often run up extravagant water bills for customers without their knowledge.

The AMR technology will enable the DEP to send accurate readings to a computerized billing system up to four times daily and will largely eliminate the need for estimated bills. Currently, water meters are read manually once a quarter (every three months).

DEP will eventually transition to monthly billing for its customers and provide better information on water usage. DEP manages the city's water supply, providing more than 1.1 billion gallons of water to the city each day.

The AMR system, contracted at a cost of $68 million, consists of small, lowpower radio transmitters connected to individual water meters that send daily readings to a network of rooftop receivers throughout the city.

The AMR receivers will be installed by and are a part of the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN). Primarily designed to aid first responders in emergencies, NYCWiN is a network of more than 400 rooftop and pole top radio send/receive units that can also help transmit data for other city agencies to use, such as the DEP.

In most cases, the DEP said transmitters will be placed where the remote receptacles are currently located. Meter Transmitter Units (MTUs) will also be provided and installed free of charge to customers. The MTUs can be located indoors, in a garage, or outdoors. DEP recommends an outdoor location, as signal strength is best outside.

"It's up to the customer where they want to have the MTU box installed" said Ellis. "If the MTU box is located outside, no access to a house is needed. Customers will be notified, probably with their water bill."

Water rates in New York City have been rising steadily, with an increase of 14.5 percent imposed as of July 1, 2008 for this fiscal year. "As water/sewer rates increase, monthly, rather than quarterly readings and bills become more valuable to both DEP and its customers," a DEP publication said in an explanation of the AMR program.

In another presentation to the Borough Cabinet, the United States Bureau of the Census said applications for jobs in the 2010 Census are available. The Census Bureau expects to hire 12,000 people in Queens. To call to schedule an appointment to take the necessary test and apply for a job or for more information, call tollfree at 1-866-861-2010.

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