New meter system aims to make Winnsboro’s billing headache go away

Ferguson Waterworks representative Rob Watson, left. explains to Winnsboro Mayor John McMeekin at the Tuesday evening town council meeting how the data from new smart meters, which Watson is holding, is transmitted every hour via a transmitter, held by McMeekin, to an antenna on a water tower and then to the town’s billing office. | Barbara Ball

WINNSBORO – Winnsboro water customers should soon have fewer headaches over their water bills.

Their meter readers will soon be replaced with smart meters and consistent billing.

The town is installing the smart meters in two phases. The first phase is being installed for Blythewood’s 1,600 customers beginning later this month. Phase two will bring about 3,500 smart meters to Winnsboro.

The smart meters will eliminate the need for traditional meter readers who, residents have complained for years, didn’t regularly read their meters. Sporadic reading of meters and billing led to water bills that were sometimes as high as $1,200 for a small home with only two occupants.

“It was critical that we got a new system for reading and reporting water usage in a timely manner,” Winnsboro’s new Town Manager Jason Taylor said. “We’ve had a tough time keeping enough people on staff to read 300 meters a day. So we had complaint after complaint after complaint about our utility service and billing. We knew we had a problem,” Taylor said. “Now we have a solution.”

That solution is an AMI (Automatic Metering Infrastructure) system which consists of a new compact smart meter installed at the residence and another small piece of equipment attached to the smart meter that will transmit the meter reading every hour to antennas on the town’s water towers which in turn will send the data to the Town of Winnsboro’s billing office.

In Winnsboro the system will also read meters for the city’s other utilities – natural gas (2,300 customers), electricity (3,200 customers) and sewer.

Rob Watson, a field representative for Ferguson Waterworks out of Columbia, told Winnsboro town council members Tuesday evening that the final equipment for the Blythewood water customers had arrived that day and that the system in Blythewood should be up and running the end of the month.

The Winnsboro system, which has more customers, requires more equipment. Its launch depends, Watson said, on how soon the equipment arrives.

“But, because the homes are much closer together in Winnsboro than in Blythewood, we should be able to move faster once we get started,” Winnsboro John McMeekin said.

Taylor said Winnsboro’s total cost for the system to cover both Blythewood and Winnsboro is about $3.9 million. Of that, Blythewood’s system is $791,189.25.

“Winnsboro is basically a utility business,” McMeekin said. “We are one of only four, possibly five, towns in South Carolina that offers water, natural gas, electricity and sewer, plus we offer garbage pickup.

“These utilities offer a great advantage as far as being able to revitalize our town,” McMeekin said. “Brought up to proper standards, these utilities can provide revenue which goes back to our citizens. These utilities are not businesses to make money like a private industry. They are businesses for the benefit of our citizens.

“Run efficiently and properly, this new system will provide correct readings and on-time billing for both Blythewood customers and Winnsboro customers,” McMeekin said. “That’s what we want. We want to provide good service for our customers at a reasonable cost.”

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]