EVART - The Evart city council is considering bid proposals for upgrading the city's water meters.

According to city manager Sarah Dvoracek, Badger, the company that provided the current meters, informed the city in January 2019 that the current software system would no longer be supported, and they would need to upgrade the system.

"With many of our meters past or nearing their life expectancy, replacement of meters and the operating system was the most logical option," Dvoracek said.

During the Oct. 5 city council meeting, council was presented with several official bid proposals for the replacement of water meters throughout the city and an upgraded system.

OHM Advisers representative John Tanner told the council they had received five bids that ranged from $383,000 to $558,000.

"All but one of the bids was for a radio broadcast system, which would use radio to receive signals from the meters," Tanner said. "The one bid is proposing a cellular system.

"The benefit of going with the cellular system is that they don't have the upfront costs of setting up the radio control antenna and towers, the equipment that is necessary for the radio system," he continued. "However, they do have a recurring monthly cost for every meter that is read. It is like having a bunch of cell phones throughout town."

Most of the bids included an upgraded meter that would notify the city if someone's water flow dropped below a certain level, thus indicating that there is an issue.

"The new meters will allow you to set up a customer app where the customer can look at their meter reads, so the complaints you might be getting from customers saying the reading is not right could be minimized, because they can look anytime and see what their meter reads," Tanner said. "There is the ability for the city to set it up where an alarm would go off and you would be notified if there was a leak."

In addition, he added, the new meter system would eliminate the need for city employees to go to the individual meters to get the reading, because the reads would come into the city offices, thus saving the city money.

Tanner recommended the council choose one or two of the bidding companies to come make a presentation to the council so they could get any lingering questions about the system answered.

Dvoracek said she would like to go with a company that offers the customer portal, because she felt that that would be a big selling point, especially for the larger industrial and commercial users.

Mayor John Joyce agreed saying, "I think that is important, if the customer is able to monitor their own bill a little bit."

Dvoracek said the project would be funded through the city's water fund monies and would not include additional costs to consumers.

"Some commercial and/or industrial users may see an increase in usage because their current water meter is utilizing old technology and may not register every gallon used," she added. "Technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, and the new ultrasonic meters will register every gallon, therefore some consumers may see an increase due to new and improved technology."

In addition, the city's current ordinance reads that the commercial/industrial user is responsible for the replacement of the meter. The city council will need to amend the ordinance to state the city will be responsible for the replacement and maintenance of the meter, Dvoracek said.

The council heard presentations from Ferguson and SLC at its meeting Oct. 19. No action was taken at that time.

The next step, Dvoracek said, is for city staff to meet with vendors to answer any remaining questions and make a recommendation to the council at the next meeting.

In other business, city council recommended setting the Halloween trick-or-treating hours from 5 to 8 p.m., Oct. 31.

Dvoracek said trick-or-treating was not an officially city sanctioned event, and the hours are just a recommendation from the council for the safety of residents.

The council also approved the review and updating of the employee handbook.

"Our handbook policy was last approved by council in February 2016," Dvoracek said, "Since 2016, the council ahs approved several amendments to the handbook. The attorney that assisted us with the language stated there were some gaps in the language that he noticed."

Dvoracek said the city code and the personnel policy should not conflict with one another, and to protect the city, the handbook should be reviewed by a labor relations attorney to ensure compliance with all employment laws.

"Since we are addressing and cleaning up all of our city codes, it would be in the city's best interest to address a legal review of the employee handbook," she said.

"We have never had a labor relations attorney review the employee handbook, which leaves us open to liability issues," she said. "The attorney will look at the updated ordinances and provide a policy that will have the new rules in it."