Smart Meters 2-17-12

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2012

‘Smart meters’ may shift city workers

By John Howell Sr.

Mayor Jerry Autrey said he anticipates that when the city converts to smart meters to measure water usage, municipal employees who now read the meters monthly can be utilized to identify, inspect and plot the location of gate valves on the city’s water system.

Smart meters will allow collection of water usage data from the city’s water meters without requiring each meter to be read manually.

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The location and regular maintenance of gate valves is a major step to bring the city’s fire insurance rating from Class Six to Class Five, Fire Chief Tim Taylor said.

Gate valves are installed at intervals throughout the city municipal water distribution system to allow water to be cut off in certain areas during maintenance or repairs while maintaining pressure in the rest of the city, Taylor said.

Think of a cutoff valve installed in home plumbing water supply on a sink, for instance, that allows a leak to be repaired without cutting off the water to the rest of house. A difference between a house’s water supply and a municipal system is that the city network of pipes is often “looped,” allowing water to flow to most to most service areas from two directions. That requires two cutoffs —gate valves — and both must be closed to stop the water’s flow when repairs are made.

However, when water line repairs are completed, normal water pressure can be restored by opening only one of the gate valves. Opening the second gate valve is sometimes overlooked. Over time, the fire chief said, the location of the city’s gate valves fades from the institutional memory of the water and fire departments, gate valve locations get overgrown or, in some cases, paved over. However, if one of the gate valves remains closed on a looped system, only half of the water pressure is available for fighting fires, Taylor continued.

The Mississippi State Ratings Bureau (MSRB) —the agency that evaluates municipal and district fire protection and assigns the classifications that determine how much property owners will pay for fire insurance — deems the maintenance and regular inspection of gate valves important enough, the fire chief said, that successive annual records of systematic and documented inspections and maintenance is the major step needed to bring Batesville’s fire insurance down to Class Five.

While there is little or no difference in homeowners’ fire insurance premiums in Public Protection Classes 1 through 6, according to tables provided by the MSRB, there can significant savings on fire insurance premiums covering commercial property, depending on a building’s construction and use, according to MSRB Public Protection Department Superintendent Ty Windham.

“What the Rating Bureau wants is to locate those valves and set up a map database using GPS coordinates,” Taylor said. Systematically making sure that all gate valves remain open except during water line repairs will improve the water pressure throughout the city water system, he added.