Laurinburg’s new meters will be tested again next week in an ongoing effort to get the system up and running.
But the president of the firm that sold the city the equipment characterized any delays as typical of a fledgling system as large as Laurinburg’s
The process which involves replacing the city’s aging water meters and replacing or retrofitting its electric meters, was supposed to be completed in December. City officials estimate that it may be sometime in the spring of next year when the entire system is working properly.
Ken Kercher, CEO of Datamatic, said the fact that there have been some issues getting the $2.4 million metering system fully operational should be expected.
In an interview Friday with the Laurinburg Exchange, Kercher compared the problems with the equipment to few bad bulbs on a Christmas Tree.
“When you put up a Christmas Tree, there may be two or three lights that don’t work,” Kercher said. “The tree is still well lighted, you just tweak those bulbs. With a system this large, there may be some minor things, but they can be fixed.”
The completed system will allow for the city’s water and electric meters to be read remotely, but technicians have had trouble doing that because of issues with software. Officials said earlier this week that all but 714 of the city’s new electric meters have been installed. All but 78 of the 8,800 water meters are operational.
At a special meeting on Monday, Laurinburg officials said they were withholding $289,000 of the money owed to Datamatic until the city was sure the system was fully operational.
Mayor Tommy Parker and Councilman JD Willis questioned the practice of paying the company most of the money without stipulations that the system was working.
“And now we have lost our leverage,” Parker said.
City Manager Ed Burchins disagreed with that assessment. Burchins said he expects the project to be completed to the city’s satisfaction.
“I don’t think we have lost our leverage and I think this will still get done,” Burchins said.
Kercher said he not aware that the city was unhappy with Datamatic, but would try to clear up any misunderstandings between the city and Datamatic, which provides meter reading and field data collection solutions to water, gas, and electric utilities in the United States and internationally.
“We’re in business to make our clients happy,” Kercher said. “I would be surprised if by the end of this process, they aren’t happy with the product but also with the service.”