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Sound Off! calls published Jan. 6, 2010
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• P.R. campaign for census?

Let me get this straight. Article 1 of the Constitution calls for an enumeration of the people to be made every 10 years for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. And the Census Bureau is now preparing to spend $340 million in tax-payer-provided dollars on a publicity campaign to convince the people that it is a good idea.

• Critical of City Council decision

In response to "City Picks Cadillac..." the author clings so willingly to the "cadillac" metaphor used to describe the city's choice of water meter. The last Cadillac my grandparents owned broke down after 900 miles; it was a veritable lemon. Are we really going to put all of our city's stock into a water meter brand that bills itself with dated and somewhat inappropriate automobile illusions? How many people have actually done any research on this Sensus system? Everything I have found has been overtly negative! A Sensus project in Norfolk, Mass., yielded a failure rate of 20 percent; what are the long-term maintenance costs of a water system that fails one out of every five times we try to use it? In Muskogee, Okla., the city found their water revenues drop $500,000 over three years because they had to forfeit all of their income to replacement and repair costs. Surely that $500,000 deficit found its way to the customer's pocket books!

Did the council even have these statistics, or were they instead willingly charmed by a group of representatives attempting to corrupt the facts and feed some sort of ulterior motive?

And the random contractor in the crowd, so valiant in his massive price reduction, which I am now to understand, was close to $420,000; how much money is this man making that he can so easily cut nearly half a million dollars from his profit? Surely we can all assume that his effort wasn't to feed his love and admiration for Ceres! And who is going to keep him honest? Our bumbling council members? These men cannot even detect a rat when it is sitting in the same room as them? Something is terribly awry in our humble little community, and we need to stand up and demand answers. Certainly Sensus was not the only technology proposed throughout this process. And what of the meters and technology we have now? What is wrong with the investment that we have been paying off over the past decade? Are we really willing to destruct our current infrastructure to invest in a Cadillac?

Bottom line: if I was given a couple million dollars to invest in an automobile, I'd have to take a long and hard look at everything available before I jumped behind the wheel of a vehicle as financially unstable and historically unreliable as a Cadillac. Perhaps the same responsible caution should be employed before we blindly commit to this "cadillac of water meters."

(Editor's note: The term "cadillac system" was coined by a councilmember and not coined by the writer of the article. The term was based on the reflection that Sensus is a time tested, state-of-the-art technology with reliability. With over 180 FlexNet systems, and 4,000 AutoRead systems nationwide Sensus is recognized as the quality and technology leader in both AMI and AMR systems.

Sensus was the only vendor that spoke at the council meeting. The possible $420,000 reduction would not come from meter contractor profit, but from installing the FlexNet transceiver in a cost-efficient manner, combining meters on one transmitter that are close enough to each other, not having to replace existing lids, etc. It is an option if the city elects Sensus as the vendor. The City Council has not selected a vendor yet and three fixed network vendors responded. Fortunately, all three respondents are compatible with some of the current infrastructure allowing the city to utilize existing meters.

Norfolk project experienced problems with a billing software. They didn't even choose the Sensus fixed network system.

The Muskogee project was one of Sensus earliest projects and did experience problems with the manufacture of some of the transmitters but not the meters. Sensus honored their contract and warranty and took care of the problem. The additional $500,000 expense was largely due to errors by city employees in the billing department according to news articles. Ceres is requiring a warranty and performance bond to ensure the vendor completes the job correctly.

Staff visited the Los Banos water system and saw how well the Sensus Flex-Net water meter reading system worked for them and how useful the water usage information obtained from the system can be. The system proposed for Ceres is exactly the same technology demonstrated in Los Banos.

The caller implies that the city now has meters and is going to abandon its investment. However the city only has about 600 to 700 functional meters and those are on commercial accounts and will be incorporated into the system. The state is mandating that the city install meters on residents now where it has none to help conserve water. The governor has also set a requirement to conserve up to 20 percent of municipal water usage by 2020; meters will help accomplish this.)