City Hall to refurbish second drive-up lane for use

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, May 28, 2022

NILES — A Niles City Council decision will improve the speed and efficiency of making in-person utility payments.

The council moved unanimously to refurbish the second drive-up lane at City Hall during Monday’s meeting at the City of Niles Fire Department.

Alarm Services Network will make the lane operational with audio, video, and teller technology at a cost of $12,862, which will be paid for using funds budgeted in the Computer Equipment and Supplies fund from the Electric, Water and Wastewater Division.

With City Hall’s first floor remaining closed due to the pandemic, city officials felt refurbishing the second drive-up window was important due to citizens potentially being impacted in the event of technology failure in the first drive-up lane. Activating the second lane would also reduce traffic congestion created by long lines near tax payment deadlines.

“We had some discussion about this proposal at the utility board meeting,” said councilman John DiCostanzo. “There were some concerns from members over the necessity for it, but I think that anybody who’s been waiting in line for a long time at the drive-up will appreciate it. We’re still not able to open the first floor with all of the up and down swings with COVID, so I think it’s necessary if we’re hoping to keep a good level of customer service with utility customers.”

In other business, the council authorized the Utilities Department to enter a professional agreement with Power System Engineering Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin for Advanced Metering Infrastructure System consulting at a cost of approximately $52,200 paid for using the Utilities Department Professional Services Fund.

PSE is a Michigan Municipal Electric Association associate member and regularly conducts AMI training to MMEA and has assisted several MMEA members with AMI consulting.

Niles invested in automated meter reading in January 1996 and has been fully AMR capable since roughly 2012. However, AMR collects data from electric and water meters via drive-by or walk-by readers, is limited in capability and not really “functional” to the customer.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure is a two-way communication between the meter endpoints and the city’s utilities network. The meter data is automatically transmitted at predetermined intervals, eliminating drive and walk-by requirements. Customers have real-time access through a web portal to their meter data and can effectively load and manage usage.

With federal grant opportunities opening up for AMI installations,the city felt it was time to capitalize and upgrade its electric and water metering.

“$52,200 is a lot to spend on consulting fees, but it is necessary in order for us to be able to apply for the grants that’ll be available in order to afford implementing this system,” said councilman John DiCostanzo. “This system will enable the facility department to acquire meter data without having to be made a reader electronically transmitted. It will also enable great payers to access their usage and that will also enable us to be able to adjust our usage to optimize our bills, optimize our usage. I think it’s a great step forward. It’s not anything that’s going to happen anytime soon but I think it’s great to set the morning direction and Don’t look forward to having a system like this implemented.”

In further business, council:

  • Approved the emergency purchase from Precision Electric Inc. of Mishawaka, Indiana for the repair of Raw Sewage Pump #3 at the Wastewater Treatment Plant in the amount of $4,012.49 to be charged to the Maintenance Plant Equipment Fund..
  • Approved the emergency purchase from Altec Industries, Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama for repair of the Utilities Department Electric Division’s high-bucket truck in the amount of $5,559.40 to be charged to the Electric Division Vehicle Maintenance Fund.
  • Approved the emergency purchase from Peerless Midwest of Mishawaka, Indiana for repair of a high service pump No.1 in the amount of $13,650.77 to be charged to the Water Division Maintenance/Pump Motor and Equipment Fund.
  • Approved the emergency purchases for lead service line replacement assistance on North 13th Street in the amount of $28,885.96 to be charged to the Water Division Maintenance Services Fund.
  • Authorized the purchase of two Ford Explorer Utility Police Vehicles from Gorno Ford of Woodhaven, Michigan at a cost of $74,748.00 with one vehicle being charged to the Vehicle Capital Outlay Fund and one being charged to the Equipment Replacement Fund.