New water meters: BV council waives bidding for devices

Friday, February 22, 2019

By Kelby Newcomb

The Berryville City Council voted Tuesday to waive competitive bidding for the purchase Automated Meter Reading (AMR) radio-read water meters for the Berryville Water Department.

Mayor Tim McKinney said the water department had determined the customary competitive bidding process for the purchase of the water meters was not feasible because of the many variables in design bid specifications and will instead solicit competitive bid quotes for the purchase of the equipment.

“I didn’t know we were looking at automated water systems,” alderman Jason Williams said. “Is it something we’ve been looking at for a while?”

McKinney said the new meters are part of the rural water project, which will add approximately 41 miles of water line into the future growth area outside of Berryville and serve residents who previously relied on wells or other independent water sources.

“It’s not only to put new meter readers in the new area,” he said, “but it’s also going to replace all the meter readers in town. We will go from two weeks of reading meters to half a day.”

McKinney said water department staff had looked at every system they could.

“It’s new-enough technology that to develop bid specs is almost impossible,” he said. “What our department wants, and I think they made a wise decision, is a basic meter where it’s radio-read.”

While more advanced systems exist, McKinney said the company the water department is talking with is compatible with the city’s existing software.

“We’ve talked to a lot of towns that have used these meters,” he said. “They will be compatible with our existing system where we don’t have to change them out all at one time. We will convert so many a month. All the meters in the new area will be radio-read meters.”

McKinney concluded, “We beat them down on their prices pretty good. I think this is definitely the best for the city. They have 10 to 15 years of guaranteed battery life, and they’ll replace any meters that go before that time.”

The council voted to adopt an emergency clause in order to pass Ordinance 1048, which waives the competitive bidding for the purchase of AMR radio-read water meters, on all three readings at a single meeting. The emergency clause states that the standard competitive bidding process is unnecessary to preserve the public welfare and safety of the citizens of Berryville, so an emergency is declared to exist.

The council also voted to approve Ordinance 1046, rezoning a parcel of property at 400 Orchard Drive from C-2 Highway Commercial to R-O Residential/Office, on its second and third readings by title only.

Jeff Hatley, public information officer for Ozark Regional Transit, updated the council on the company’s ridership numbers for 2018.

“Overall ridership for the year was 225,971, compared to 235,277 in 2017,” he said. “That was a 4 percent decrease. We were at a 7 percent decrease in November, so that has started to level out. We expect that to turn around in 2019.”

While most cities in Northwest Arkansas reported lower ridership numbers, he said Berryville’s numbers were up.

“Carroll County had 1,830 passengers in 2018,” Hatley said. “When I say ‘passengers,’ I mean trips. Sixty-two of those were wheelchair-bound. Berryville itself had 1,516 passengers in 2018, compared to 1,238 in 2017, which was a 23 percent increase.”

For the second year in a row, he said Ozark Regional Transit is going to have a table and offer rides for Berryville Elementary School’s Kindergarten Roundup on Friday, April 26. He said Principal Kelly Swofford had reached out to them about it.

Hatley said some families, mostly Hispanic and Marshallese families, don’t attend the roundup, so the elementary school doesn’t know how many staff and supplies are needed for the upcoming kindergarten class.

“Everyone shows up in the fall, and they’re understaffed and underprepared for those numbers,” he said. “[Swofford] is trying to make a push to get people to go to that kindergarten roundup.”

Hatley said Ozark Regional Transit will be assisting by providing rides to the event.

Berryville Police Chief Robert Bartos presented the police department’s monthly report for January. Bartos said 101 citations were written, 67 offenses were reported and 20 accidents were reported. He said the department served eight warrants, did 20 fingerprints and six VIN verifications. The department collected $3,215 in fines and bonds, Bartos said, and had a clearance rate of 81 percent for the month of January.

McKinney informed the council that he had been approached by a company wanting to put a tower on Saunders Heights.

“I’ve always hoped we could get down to at least one tower or eliminate all towers,” he said. “This company has already got several clients, and they’re willing to partner with the city.”

McKinney continued, “I told them I wanted to ask the council to seek proposals for someone to put a big tower up there and make the city a partner on it. We would have to honor all existing leases, but once those leases expire there would be one tower on the mountain and the city would be making money off of everybody on that tower.”

He said Cox Communications is doing a three-year lease on their tower but is about ready to eliminate it anyway.

“The lease with Carroll Electric has about 10 to 12 years left,” McKinney said, “so we will have to honor it. If we go that route, it should include a provision that they would have tower space for anyone existing on the mountain now so somebody wouldn’t be without a place to go.”

He said he thinks the proposal has the potential to generate about $60,000 to $100,000 a year for the city in the long run through all the subleases.

“If we did this, it would be open to anyone who wanted to partner with the city and put a tower up there,” McKinney said.

Alderwoman Cindy George asked if the proposed tower would be in the same location as the existing towers on Saunders Heights, and McKinney said it would be.

“Would we share the cost with them?” asked alderwoman Linda Riddlesperger.

“We would have no cost,” McKinney said. “They would bear the cost.”

He said the city would begin researching proposals.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at City Hall.

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