Jefferson PUD considers taking over meter reading

Current 10-year contract expires this February

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Public Utility District is preparing to take over 100 percent of the meter reading responsibilities in the county in case a contract with Landis+Gyr is not extended, General Manger Kevin Streett has told commissioners.

Ladis+Gyr is a Swiss-based company that developed technology for smart meters, where the data can be collected digitally rather than manually.

The 10-year contract, for about $350,000 annually, ends in February, and the company has not responded to requests for discussion, Streett told commissioners Monday afternoon.

“They were originally contracted to read meters by Puget Sound Energy before we took over and continued the contract,” Will O’Donnell, communications director, explained after the meeting.

PUD officials, who had expected to finish replacing older utility meters with smart meters district-wide in mid-2024, had hoped that Landis+Gyr could continue its meter reading during that time.

“We have not been able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement on terms for a contract extension,” O’Donnell said.

“We are looking at taking on the meter reading duties in-house and expediting the meter replacement to finish by the end of 2023,” he added.

Rough estimates were that additional labor costs would be about $35,000, with overall impact to make the switch about $75,000 to $100,000 in 2023.

Other costs are being investigated by PUD staff.

Offsetting the costs would be the fact that money would be spent hiring local people and spending the money in the community, staff members said.

The current meters are read digitally when vans drive by. The new meters would send data to a cloud server and the PUD would be able to manage utility outages or other issues from one central system.

“The meters are all read by drive-by, which means a truck or van drives by the location and automatically picks up the meter’s signal. That’s how our legacy meters have operated,” O’Donnell said.

“Right now Landis+Gyr reads about 60 percent of our meters and we read the remaining 40 percent, which are meters that have been installed in the last few years.

“So we will end up doing 100 percent of the reading until we have replaced all the meters, at which point we don’t read them; they send their data to the cloud and then we get the read back, so we don’t have to send a truck out to drive all over the county,” O’Donnell said.

Jefferson PUD currently has three people on staff to conduct meter readings and is anticipating it will need to hire three additional people if it can’t come to an agreement with Landis+Gyr.

Ads for meter readers were expected to be put out on Tuesday, O’Donnell said.

“We’re doing that regardless of what happens with Landis+Gyr. We do not know the current status of the contract or if we will be able to get an extension,” he said.

“Even if we do get it, this will allow us to expand and speed up the meter replacement process, and we know we have positions that will be opening up in other departments, ” O’Donnell continued. “At the end of the year, it would be possible for those folks to bid for, meaning they would get first pick before we put it out there for external hire.”

In addition to new hires, the PUD also will need to look into buying or leasing more meter-reading trucks and vans, which is a dwindling market, O’Donnell said.

“All of these will be extra expenses to the budget,” he said.

“It’s been hard to buy trucks lately. We have often had to lease them because they are not available for purchase, and it’s a different financial impact for purchase and for lease, but those are the options we would be looking into,” O’Donnell said.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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