A short-handed River Forest Village Board advanced the village’s automatic metering infrastructure (AMI) project with a unanimous vote, Sept. 13.

By a 4-0 vote, officials approved spending an additional $550,000 on contracts/costs associated with the project and the associated customer portal, including implementation costs and contract terms with the vendors involved.

Of the six trustees, only Ken Johnson and Rescipio Vazquez were in attendance in person for the meeting. Trustees Katie Brennan and Erika Bachner participated virtually and Trustees Lisa Gillis and Bob O’Connell did not attend.

Included were $529,233 for Core and Main for a Sensus FlexNet AMI system and $20,797.20 for WaterSmart Software Inc. for the customer portal software implementation.

In April, officials approved a contract with Siemens Industry Inc. for consulting services, project management assistance, and installation and verification of water meters and multiplexer units (MXU) for the fixed-base AMI system. At the Sept. 13 meeting, officials learned that the Siemens contract had been restated, leading in a reduction in costs from $1,028,343 to $883,566. Part of the decreased cost was reducing the number of water meters that will need to be replaced to 314 from 1,964.

However, even with the reduction in the Siemens contract, the project is still over budget by approximately $45,000. Although Lisa Scheiner, acting village manager, explained that not all purchases will be due at once, Cathy Adduci, village president, instructed her and Jeff Loster, director of public works and development services, to seek further project cost reductions.

Erin Perry of Siemens told officials at the Sept. 13 meeting that she expects replacement of water meters to be completed by January and the entire project to be completed by March.

The AMI project will entail upgrading water meters throughout the village with state-of-art equipment that will allow the village to obtain meter readings without requiring public works staff members to perform a “drive-by” read, which is the current practice.  

The project will deliver better customer service by providing accurate bills based on actual consumption that can be seen in real time by providing meter reads on an hourly basis instead of once per billing cycle, the current practice. It can also help identify any irregularities in water usage such as leaks being experienced by residents. 

In addition, the project will streamline the water meter reading process by eliminating the need for public works staffers to drive through the village, which will be more environmentally friendly and save staff time.

The project will require installing new MXUs, which are small battery-powered devices installed close to the meters. Loster said workers will only be required to work inside homes or businesses to replace the 314 water meters. He estimated that installation will take 30 minutes each. Installation of the MXUs will be done outside.

Since the remote reads will be collected by radio signal, the village will need to install a central antenna on the water tower. 

Perry explained the Siemens public relations campaign that will inform residents about the program, providing informational fliers and a toll-free number for residents to call for any questions they have about the project.

Short videos will be produced providing information and details of the program that will be displayed on the village website, she added. A list of frequently asked questions also will be created and posted on village web sources to inform residents and answer their questions.

Adduci said she is “very supportive” of the project, adding she believes the project should reduce the number of resident complaints that village staff members receive regarding water usage, noting that those complaints are among the most common. 

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