System helps get meter readers’ feet off the streets of Laredo

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Established in 1755 as a colonial city of New Spain, Laredo, Texas has a history as colorful as the seven different flags which have flown over it. Today it stands on the north bank of the Rio Grande as the U.S. principal port of entry into Mexico. In keeping with its importance as a center of international trade, Laredo is growing, with a current population of 235,000. Keeping up with the growing number of residents within the city limits and the additional 15,000 in the surrounding county had kept the city of Laredo Utilities Department on its toes. And that was the problem.

The city had been walking to read its 67,543 water meters – 59,138 residential and 8,405 commercial accounts – using a manual method that took up to ten staff on the streets nearly an entire month to read to meet a monthly billing schedule.

With lucrative oil and gas drilling companies attracting away many city workers, Utilities Department Director Tomas Rodriguez was determined to implement anupdated, automated meter reading system.

“By automating, we would be getting bills out faster and collecting faster, and, of course, be more accurate too,” he said. With the dawn of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems, the city saw a solution.

The city had been using meters from Council member Neptune Technology Group since 2002 and decided that using Neptune’s AMI system would shorten the learning curve for employees. Among other benefits, Rodriguez says, “We now have six people doing the work that took 10 people before. Without this system, we would have had to hire extra people to help our billing department.”