May 30, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 6

Council gives Itron exclusive contract

Cheney already using company’s meters, system will help provide flexibility and cost efficiencies

The Cheney City Council unanimously approved a $96,663 contract with Itron that city officials believe should make electric and water usage more manageable and cost effective.

The global supplier of fixed communications networks for automatic and electronic metering reading will provide equipment, installation and professional services that will provide more flexibility and data management for Cheney’s Light and Public Works departments. Light Department director Joe Noland told the council the recommendation comes at the end of a 12-month demonstration of the fixed metering network.

“We think there’s real value in what they have to offer,” he said.

The resolution waived the city’s standard competitive bid requirement since the system is proprietary to Itron’s meters, which Cheney has been using for years, and exclusive to the Liberty Lake-based company. According to the resolution language, the system uses dispersed fixed antennas that remotely read radio signals from meters and relays them back to Itron’s servers. The servers in turn make the data available to city personnel via website.

Public Works director Todd Ableman ticked off a list of benefits officials believe the system will provide, such as reducing billing issues, providing on-demand meter reads, ability to better troubleshoot complaints, usage profiling and identifying unknown electrical or water losses. One feature, the ability to better collect off cycle readings, especially after Eastern Washington University students move in or out of apartments or homes, might prove especially helpful.

“It is pretty cumbersome (now), about six to eight days to collect that information,” Ableman said.

City personnel can handle complaints at their desks, thereby reducing trips into the field. Water losses due to leaks or ruptures can be more quickly identified and responded to.

“We assume that water use will come to a stop in a 24-hour period,” Ableman said. “If it doesn’t, it can alarm us that we have a leak.”

Additional benefits listed are increased safety, proactive meter monitoring, map-based outage displays, better asset managing along with improved planning and accurate forecasting. City Administrator Arlene Fisher told the council that the contract was four years in the making, and should move the city towards an efficient process.

Mayor Tom Trulove noted that jurisdictions are required by state law to protect customer usage data from being shared with other entities.

“It’s actually much more stringent than any of the other data that is collected,” he said of the Itron system. The purchase resolution carried a $100,000 budget appropriation.

In other actions at Tuesday night’s meeting, the council unanimously approved an annual purchase of transformers by the Light Department. Noland said the city received five bids for 19 transformers, with General Pacific coming in lowest at $31,663.88, plus tax.

The council also approved a resolution accepting an additional $5,000 grant from the Raikes Foundation’s Youth Program Quality Initiative for support of the city’s Youth Commission. The city had previously received $25,000 in 2011 and $5,000 in 2012 from the foundation.

The council also approved a long-term facility rental agreement with The Edge Church for use of the city’s Wren Pierson Community Center. Parks and Recreation director Paul Simmons said the church has already been using the facility, but wanted to rent long-term to promote stability. The one-year agreement charges the church $425 a week, resulting in about $22,000 revenue for the department.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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