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NEWBERRY – In the near future, Newberry may become the smallest city in Florida to institute a new type of technology that would revolutionize their utility services. Once instituted, meter readers would not be required to travel throughout the city to read meters and the city would be able to tell their customers when they have a leak or some other problem the homeowner might not easily recognize.

Newberry's staff has been evaluating automatic metering infrastructure (AMI) technology to determine whether it would be beneficial for implementation in Newberry. According to city records, the city has conducted two public workshops on the topic. In addition, staff has evaluated AMI that have been implemented in other cities. The City Commission has indicated that it supports continued evaluation of the technology.

An evaluation team consisting of Mayor Bill Conrad, Commissioner Jason McGehee, City Manager Mike New, Finance Director Dallas Lee and Jamie Jones, Director of Utilities and Public Works, traveled to Kings Mountain, North Carolina, to evaluate an AMI system that has been in operation for 22 months. Kings Mountain is similar to Newberry in many ways and their AMI system is similar to the system Newberry is considering through Leidos Engineering, Reston, Virginia.

New produced a power point presentation to help explain how an AMI system works, what they found out in their information-gathering trip to Kings Mountain and reasons why the city is considering implementing it.

“AMI technology includes meters that are smart and contain a computer motherboard for two-way communication between the meter and City Hall,” he said. “The benefit of this system is that we can ask the meter what the meter reading is or ask it to turn off service.”

Due to the relatively small number of city staff, the city is looking at a company called Smart Grid to help them evaluate the data coming from the meters. In Kings Mountain, New pointed out that their meter readers were retrained to be able to access the data and evaluate important patterns and problems like neighborhood wide data outages.

New said the city would work on funding and ways to move through the competitive process. “Staff will be working on identifying a plan to move through the competitive process and developing a financing plan,” he said. “We will come back to the commission in early 2017 with that information so you can evaluate what we find out and tell staff how the commission wants us to proceed or what further information is needed.”

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