Alva City Council approved water meter bid
January 1, 2023
The City of Alva Water Department has weathered a number of problems in 2022. There was the hard freeze in February followed by high temperatures and little precipitation over the summer months all leading to emergencies. Most recently, five breaks in a 16-inch main bringing water into Alva caused the water department to work 36 hours straight and seek the help of contract crews. Considering all these crises being handled by an under-staffed department, it’s no mystery why the city council has sought bids to replace failing water meters.
When they were installed, the remote-read meters allowed one employee to drive the streets to get the readings on a digital device. This saved a lot of time, allowing department employees to handle their regular work in addition to unexpected problems that arose. However, those meters have been failing at an alarming rate, requiring that water usage be read manually, one meter at a time. The company that sold the city the meters is no longer in business, and replacements are not available.
While the city may pursue legal action against that water meter company, the city council has listened to presentations from two other water meter companies. They discussed options for paying for the meters (with money still owed on current meters), and they applied for a grant to help. The grant application was successful with the city obtaining a $1,565,000 loan from OWRB (Oklahoma Water Resources Board) with $1 million of that grant forgiven. That means the city will need to pay back anything over $1 million.
The city advertised for bids, using very detailed specifications, and on Dec. 27 at 2 p.m. three bids were opened.
A special city council meeting was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 27, to consider action on those bids. Six councilmembers were present for the meeting: Randy Stelling, Troy Brooks, Sadie Bier, Taylor Dowling, Dr. Garrett Lahr and Daniel Winters. Absent were Greg Bowman and Gail Swallow.
Mayor Kelly Parker opened the meeting, explaining a letter of recommendation had been provided from Myers Engineering summarizing the three bids. The bid from Pioneer Supply of Oklahoma City was the highest at $1,702,665.32 for labor and materials and exceeded the amount of the OWRB loan so it could not be considered.
The other two companies use products that are in service across the United States, so the decision on the best bid comes down to preferences of equipment, Parker said.
Core and Main of Oklahoma City bid a total project price of $1,565,000 using Neptune meters which have brass fittings. UTS of Oklahoma City bid $1,270,000 for the total project using Sensus meters which have composite fittings. Core and Main had a 10 year full warranty with 10 years prorated while UTS offered a 15 year full warranty with five years prorated. Both can be upgraded to AMI capability. The Neptune meters have an ultrasonic measuring device while Sensus meters use a mag meter.
Core and Main has 200,000 plus meters installed in Oklahoma listing Enid, Shattuck, Hooker, Gage and Waynoka as customers near Alva. UTS has approximately 160,000 meters with nearby customers in Woodward, Guymon, Watonga, Fairview, Perry, Ponca City and Okeene.
Parker said in comparing the two proposals, “two things stick out right away.” Neptune meters have brass fittings. When threading them onto plastic fittings like those used in Alva, damage is less likely. The Sensus meters use composite fittings which are more likely to be damaged unless handled very carefully, and if damaged, that is not a warranty item.
The mayor said in the last two years, Core and Main has provided more water system service to Alva. This year the city spent $39,000 with Core and Main through November while they spent $7,200 with UTS in the same period. During the recent water main crisis in Alva, a Friday night call received no response from UTS but Core & Main answered even though the sales representative was on vacation.
The city contacted some of the places using both systems. Some using Sensus meters said they were fine but they wished they had something else. All they called with Neptune meters were happy.
Alva Water Superintendent Drake Lewis said, “It comes down to customer service. That’s something I’d like you guys to take into consideration.”
Parker then took the councilmembers through a spreadsheet showing Alva Utility Authority debt payments, comparing current debt with each of the two bid options added. He said the first year (this fiscal year), each of the options showed a reduction. The next year showed an increase and after that debt service showed a decrease in capital owed. Total debt, including what’s already owed from the utility budget, would be paid off in March 2049.
Brooks asked why the city couldn’t purchase ten meters and try them out before deciding. Parker said the city would lose the $1 million from OWRB. He said the deadline on that $1 million was the next day, Dec. 28.
Parker said once the project begins, either of the companies would have 120 days for completion. Bier asked if the water meters being bid would cover the whole city, and Parker said they would. Stelling said, “If you can’t get somebody on the phone to do something, that’s a big deal.”
There was some discussion about antennas used to transmit reading. Both companies have their antennas outside of the water meter installation. Pioneer used an interior antenna, but they had lower rates of reading accuracy.
Winters said the Neptune meters seemed to be the best bid. Bier said she was concerned about the composite Sensus meter parts stripping threads which could lead to extra costs. “That makes me nervous,” she said.
Lewis said another consideration is thawing out frozen meters. He said in the last couple of days, the city had 36 frozen meters. He described how crews use a dryer vent hose which they attach to the exhaust of a vehicle with the other end going into the meter can. He said it is harder to thaw plastic than it is to thaw brass fittings without breaking them.
Stelling made a motion to accept the Core and Main bid for a total of $1,565,000 with Bier seconding. The motion passed 4-2 with Stelling, Bier, Lahr and Winters voting in favor while Brooks and Dowling voted no.
The council meeting adjourned, and the Alva Utility Authority (AUA) special meeting was opened. Since the debt will be handled by the AUA, the bid had to be accepted again.
Stelling again made the motion to accept the Core and Main bid, seconded by Bier. It passed by the same 4-2 vote.
After the meeting, Mayor Parker told the Alva Review-Courier no one has been hired as city business manager. A special meeting held on Dec. 22 allowed councilmembers to speak with an applicant in closed executive session. Parker said contract negotiations are currently underway.