Water meter company retrofits device, avoids Delray suit

Florida's reputation for extreme humidity is not an exageration, an out-of-state manufacturer of water meters recently found out.

By Sar Perlman, Florida Sentinel

DELRAY, Fl., May 7, 2004 -- Florida's reputation for extreme humidity is not an exageration, an out-of-state manufacturer of water meters recently found out.

"The moisture in Florida was something new to us. We were unfamiliar with this level of humidity. It was a major obstacle in our equipment getting accurate readings," said Matt Laird, president of Boulder, Colo.,-based Metron-Farnier.

Delray Beach withdrew its lawsuit against the company in late January after the company retrofitted its water meter readers and accompanying touch pads to be moisture-resistant.

The company should have been more prepared for the weather differences but was thankful to get it squared away, Laird said.

The city filed suit against the company in April 2002 after the Public Utilities Department reported problems with the touch pad system the city purchased from Metron, Assistant City Attorney Terrill Pyburn said.

The company agreed to retrofit the touch pads at its own cost, and the City Commission in July 2003 granted the city five months to audit and evaluate the performance of the touch pads after the retrofit. The audit found the touch pads had less than a 3 percent failure rate and consequently the city withdrew the suit, Pyburn said.

The touch pads allow public utilities employees to get an accurate, digital reading from a distance of the large water meters in condominiums, apartment complexes and similar properties, said Barbara Schooler, utilities customer service manager for the city.

"These touch pads appear to be working fine now, and they are very helpful; they save us a lot of time," she said.

City employees can get a reading without walking over to the meter each time, unlocking the cover and reading the dials. The touch pad communicates with the water meter wirelessly and reports the reading almost instantly.

The pads also help improve accuracy. After time, the dials can wear out and become hard to read. The touch pads provide accurate readings and prevent confusion and wrong billings to customers, Pyburn said.

The cost of the water meters and pads was $256,825, and retrofitting was done at Metron's expense.

"We're happy Metron went above and beyond to ensure everything is working accurately. We appreciate them getting back into a satisfactory relationship with the city," Pyburn said.


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