Council hears electric smart meter presentation

MILFORD — Outdated equipment may soon cause problems for the city of Milford as it becomes increasingly more difficult to find parts and support, according to Rick Carmean, electric superintendent.

George Bjelovuk, advanced metering program manager through American Municipal Power, Inc. (AMP), explored smart meters with councilmembers during the meeting, a new technology which would help take some of the responsibilities off of staff at the city of Milford.

Working collaboratively with local governments, a power supplier and companies providing the meter technology itself, Mr. Bjelovuk said AMP is able to offer better services that will eventually save the city and electric users money.

AMP is a not-for-profit organization looking to wholesale the power supply for municipal electric systems. The group currently arranges power supply for 132 publicly owned utilities serving more than 637,000 customers over nine states, including Delaware.

The real strength in the organization lies in having a stronger voice in the marketplace, Mr. Bjelovuk said. Each state participating in the program has a seat on the Smart Grid advisory committee, including the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation.

Currently, 11 communities are interested in collaborating with other municipalities through the program, according to Mr. Bjelovuk, not including Milford. Five of those municipalities have signed non-binding letters of intent to do so.

Should the city of Milford opt to participate, employees would replace electric meters and communication modules on current water meters.

AMP would provide management and training, as well as the management of a customer information system and could even integrate the GIS, or geographic information system, according to Mr. Bjelovuk.

He added that AMP will also make an investment of more than $2.5 million to cover necessary data storage, annual operating expenses, a fully managed meter data management system, a full disaster recovery site and annual testing, cyber- security monitoring of all systems, vendor relationships and other needed investments.

In turn, the city of Milford will probably have to spend $1.7-2.1 million on start-up costs to include about 7,000 new electric meters, around 3,800 new communication modules for current water meters, project management and training, annual operating costs and network integrations.

The annual operating costs itself will cost the city $110,000-$120,000 and is forecasted to increase by three percent annually.

“We’re going to take over a lot of the responsibility in the back office,” Mr. Bjelovuk added.

Before the project can arrive in Milford, AMP still must finalize vendor contracts and begin to work on already committed projects.

The first municipality to hopefully join this collaborative effort will be announced in April. The city council there will then have to hold workshops and approve the project which is tentatively planned to begin in May.

“We think we can bring on another community every 6-8 weeks; we already have 11 in the works. We should be done bringing the first community online by Nov. 1,” Mr. Bjelovuk said.

Mr. Carmean said the process will save tens of thousands of dollars each year for the city.

Bringing the city electric online will allow for a remote connect and disconnect feature, which means the meter trucks will not be needed as often. GPS will also be integrated into the system, allowing city staff to see when someone has power or not.

“It’ll all be on the Google map,” Mr. Carmean said. “When someone calls in with no power, if it’s green, we’ll say call an electrician. If it’s red, we go out to fix it.”

Better efficiency also means less work for current employees, but he said it should not cause a problem.

“We’ve got some guys with tenure looking to retire shortly. We also won’t have to pay overtime or some of the fuel costs we pay now,” he said. “It’s less labor just for the metering itself. We’ll still need linemen, but we won’t need as many meter readers to go out and turn it on. The meter readers can be doing other things.”

Transportation survey

Kate Layton, of the Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization, encouraged members of the Milford City Council and the public to take a survey regarding transportation options in the area during the last council meeting.

She spoke of a transportation plan to be drafted by the federally funded not-for-profit agency which would encompass fiscal years 2017 through 2040, hopefully aiding in transportation planning and programs for central Delaware.

“This is early in the process,” she said. “We’re working on the draft now and trying to get public input. Come January 2017, we’ll take it to the MPO council.”

The plan is updated every four years to stay up-to- date with current projects and other local dynamics.

“Projects found in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan are eligible for federal funding, too,” she said.

Councilmembers took the opportunity to ask Ms. Layton questions based on the plan like Katrina Wilson, who commented on the growth anticipated along route one which runs through Milford.

One of the concerns that we’ve heard from the neighborhoods in the southeast region is that sometimes they feel disconnected with the downtown area, but they don’t feel comfortable with riding a bike or walking,” Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe added.

Councilmember Jamie Burke agreed, saying “Especially with the new hospital and if you live on the other side of town, good luck!”

Ms. Layton said the survey takes about five minutes and addresses public transportation concerns and other related issues. Once a draft plan is created, it will be available for a 30- day commentary period.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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