JASPER, Tenn. - City administrators have been implementing a massive project to automate the town's water meter reading duties since 2011.
Last week, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen took the next step in that process.
The board voted unanimously to purchase 1,000 Badger water meter reading devices for $175,800.
The equipment will allow Jasper's water meters to relay their information wirelessly instead of the traditional method of sending out city workers to read them manually.
Mayor Paul Evans said the purchase is a "cost-saving" action that will cover a little more than one-fourth of Jasper's 3,900 water meters.
"This is something that I think we've got to get into," he said. "The longer we wait, the longer it's going to be before we can get this thing done. This is going to be a long-range plan. This is the first step."
The city now spends about $67,000 per year on labor to read the meters, Evans said.
"That doesn't count the fuel they use and the wear-and-tear on the vehicle," he said.
The cost for the new devices will be paid out of money in the water department's account, officials said, and will include the purchase of a laptop and accompanying software to do the job.
Evans said he checked with the city's auditor to make sure the purchase was acceptable.
The city entered an agreement several months ago to start purchasing the advanced meters because the handheld devices it bought in 2011 are already compatible with them.
The prices the city is getting now are better than they were when the same purchase was considered in 2011, officials said.
Alderman Steve Looney said some of the smart readers will be located on the city's waterline in areas across the Tennessee River.
"That is really going to save us a lot more time," he said. "Now, we'll be mainly reading [meters] inside the city. It won't take us any time to read those."
Evans said most other area municipalities have already upgraded to the technology.
"We're the last city to do this," he said. "We're going to have to do it. I think it's the best thing for the town."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.