Welcome the Town of Clayton, North Carolina

Have you ever wondered how much water you use to take showers, wash the dishes or water your lawn? What about how much electricity it takes to do those same activities? A conservation-minded person might like to know and manage their consumption habits.

If tracking consumption isn’t your thing, consider these possible scenarios:

Your family goes on a summer vacation for a week. Two days into your trip a pipe bursts in your home. The current technology and process will not alert you nor Town of any problem.

Or, there’s a leak outside your house underground that isn’t detected until a month later when the bill comes out and indicates huge increases in water (and sewer) flows that you now have to pay for. The Town didn’t know and neither did you.

The time has come for digital meters.

What is the $2 "AMI" meter fee on my monthly utility bill? AMI stands for Advanced Metering Infrastructure. It’s a commonly used metering system, used by Johnston County, Duke Energy, the towns of Apex and Wake Forest, along with many other utilities. These meters hourly record your water and electricity usage. A meter technician doesn’t need to come to your home or even drive by, these meters are automatically read and provide real-time, on-demand information about your water and electric consumption. They’re more accurate and can even send you and the Town alerts when water leaks or power outages occur. The Town of Clayton is in the process of installing new AMI enabled meters for all Town of Clayton water and electric customers and began charging a $2 fee on May 1, 2019 to help begin funding the process and implementation. New meters will be rolled out in the next 18-24 months. Future communications from the Town will inform you how to take control of your water and electric usage through access of your utility consumption through a customer “portal”. The portal is a web-based application that will provide you with current and historical water and electricity usage, alerts, and a link to conduct utility bill payments. Each meter has a small radio that transmits data smaller than a text, in just milliseconds. It’s sent to software at Town Hall that you’ll be able to access 24 hours a day.

Why am I getting new meters? Existing meters throughout our Town are reaching the end of their operational life and many still require a manual read. The Town evaluated the prospect of replacing the existing technology and meters with the same automated drive-by approach or migrating to smart meters. On average, 169 meters have to be re-read each month and 10%-15% of our meters fail to read. So in 2017, the Town began researching options for upgrades and conducted a six month business case analysis. From the results of the study, staff determined that replacing existing water and electric meters with the advanced technology of AMI provided far greater benefit to residents, operations and customer service than replacing the old with the same limited technology meters. The AMI project was discussed as part of last year’s 2018-2019 public budget process and shared in two public hearings prior to approval. Between July of 2018 and May of 2019, the Town of Clayton conducted a comprehensive bid process for new electric and water metering technologies. We are about to select the successful bidder.

What are the benefits to me? Right now, the Town of Clayton reads your meter once a month. With AMI, your reads will go from once a month to 720 reads a month. It’s timely and more accurate. There’s less chance for reading errors because the meter reading is transmitted directly from the meter, so the possibility of an inaccurate meter reading caused by human error will be reduced.

It can also provide you direct access to detailed water and electric usage info. What if you headed out on summer vacation and two days into your trip, your toilet starting leaking or a pipe burst. Currently, you wouldn’t find out about the leak until you got home, or possibly until a month later when you got your bill. With AMI, if you have an unexplained spike in your water usage or show continuous water flow, you and our staff can identify possible leaks based on your consumption profile and it will trigger a leak alarm to be sent to you and our Utilities & Billing staff. Heading off leaks and getting alerts of high consumption can save you money and possibly help you avoid damage to your home.

On the electric side, if you have a power outage, we’ll know right away – the system will alert us AND alert you. You can receive emails almost instantly, so you’ll know even when you’re not home. As Clayton Public Power restores power, we’re able to “ping” your individual meter to verify that power has been restored.

I don’t think I’ve ever been charged for a meter before. Why am I now paying $2 each for electric and water meters every month? Some utility companies may hide meter charges in their base rate or rate increases, the Town of Clayton chose to call out the AMI charge explicitly on utility bills. The transition to AMI is estimated to cost $4.75 million, so the Town is borrowing funds to pay for this project. It was calculated that the additional revenue needed to pay back the loan’s debt service over the 15 years would be $2 per month per meter for those 15 years. The life expectancy of the new meters is about 15 years and at that point we will again revisit the necessary fees needed for replacements.

How secure is my data and information?
Data from the meters is encrypted and sent through a safe and secure network to the utility databases. The meter system transmits only the water or electric meter readings, the meter identification number, and diagnostic information to verify that the automated meter equipment is operating correctly. Only key authorized utility personnel, such as customer service representatives can access your account if needed.There is no personal identifying information captured by the smart point or transmitted by the meter.

Is this technology safe for me and my family? The new meters use wireless radio frequencies or RF, similar to wireless Internet and cable TV which many people already have in their homes. Radio frequencies are also used in cell phones, microwaves and even baby monitors. Digital water and electric meters operate a much lower levels of radio frequencies than any of those. The meters and communication system are regulated to meet all federal communications, safety standards and codes. This is very helpful website from the Federal Communications Commission or FCC explaining radio frequencies.

You can also check the findings of the Centers for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/emf/default.html and the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/smart-meters.html

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