BEEVILLE – The City Council voted at its meeting Tuesday, July 23, to have Performance Services, Inc. to perform a no-cost preliminary service study conducted of all city services.

The vote came after PSI Business Development Manager Richard Gibbens presented a detailed report on how his company could save Beeville considerable money on utility costs.

Gibbens said his company could conduct the initial study of all city infrastructure to determine what improvements would be needed to save money on electricity, water service to residences and businesses and other functions in Beeville.

During his presentation, Gibbens focused mainly on how his company could improve Beeville’s water distribution revenue by upgrading its metering system.

Currently, the city uses mechanical meters to measure water usage throughout the city, and that information is then used to determine the bills sent to residents.

Gibbens said upgrading the city’s water meters can increase a municipality’s revenues by more accurate meter readings. That increased revenue then could be used to pay the cost of the upgrades without requiring an increase in rates, fees or taxes.

Improvements to electrically operated equipment, like pumps in the water distribution system, could reduce the city’s utility costs by 20-30 percent.

“Water meters become inaccurate with age,” Gibbens said. “The city then loses revenue.” Old water meters can be inaccurate by as much as 20 percent over time.

“The new meters are digital,” Gibbens said. “They don’t have moving parts.”

Those moving parts will wear, begin to move more slowly and eventually fail to accurately measure water use by individual costumers.

Also, the existing meters here have to be read manually by a city employee each month.

Although some new meter systems allow a city employee to drive down a street and read meters from his or her vehicle, a city still has to pay an employee to drive a truck down city streets to read the meters.

Gibben said his company could install new, digital meters that not only read the water use more accurately but also radio the readings to a central location where computers record the usage.

That does away with the need to hire personnel to read the meters each month.

Also, digital meters are accurate for 20 years, Gibben said.

Gibbens said his company is bonded so there is no risk to the city in the event the new equipment does not work properly.

Although the city will be spending money every month to pay for the new equipment, the savings will pay for the increased spending, and the city will have more efficient equipment.

Currently, City Manager Joe B. Montez said, water meters are replaced when they need to be. But he admitted that some meters have been in place 20 years.

Councilman Ford Patton questioned the use of radio-equipped water meters. Patton has been assistant city manager and city manager in Beeville and in Kenedy.

Patton asked if the sending device in each meter could continue to transmit the information if it were underwater or buried in dirt.

Gibbens said that in most cases it would. Then he said that if a meter was not transmitting the information, the city would know there was a problem, and an employee could be sent to that location to check the device.

Patton then asked about the cost of the digital meters, and Gibbens said they were $600 each.

Montez said the city maintains 5,200 meters around Beeville. He said later that replacing the existing meters with the more expensive digital meters would cost the city more than $3 million.

The city manager said it costs the city $75 to replace one of its existing meters with the same type of equipment.

However, Gibbens assured the council that the city would be able to pay off the debt incurred by replacing the meters with the additional revenue the city would collect using the more accurate meters.

Gibbens used a Power Point presentation to show the steps his company would take to improve the efficiency of the city’s infrastructure.

The process would start with the no-cost preliminary study. That would take 30 days to complete.

That would be followed by a preliminary findings report to the council and an investment grade study to include legal and financing requirements.

The council would then be asked for a final vote to approve the project and once the infrastructure had been upgraded the company would be involved in an ongoing measurement and verification process.

Patton said he had observed the operation of digital meters in the past, and when the meters are covered in water and soil, their efficiency is affected.

Gibbens assured the council that Performance Services has 390 clients in multiple states, and the company guarantees a reduction in kilowatts of electricity used.

He had said earlier that electricity savings can be accomplished by updating lighting in the city’s buildings and by improving air conditioning systems and other electric equipment.

Councilman Eric Holland then made a motion to have the company proceed with the preliminary study, and the motion was seconded by Councilman Brian Watson.

The motion passed without opposition.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.