WEIRTON - The city's plans for an energy conservation audit couldn't have come at a better time for the water department, Utilities Director A.D. "Butch" Mastrantoni says.
Earlier this week, council gave City Manager Valerie Means the go-ahead to negotiate a letter-of-intent for an energy audit, a process that will include the water and sanitary departments as well as the recreation department and library.
"We want to think outside the box," Means told board members Thursday. "We need to look at anything that will help us with energy costs (including) meters and leak detection."
Those items meters and leak detection are hugely important to departmental operations, Mastrantoni said.
"We can't account for every drop of water being produced," he said. "We're at 26 percent (unaccounted for), and we need to get back to 15 percent. This is a real opportunity to get that done with this project."
City personnel have been evaluating new metering systems, looking to find one that's reliable, cost-effective and labor efficient.
Mastrantoni said ESCO, the energy service company performing the audit, can look at the meter base and determine if changing them out could be done in such a way that the revenue gained through improved efficiency could be leveraged to cover the costs of the upgrade, rather than requiring water customers to pick up the tab.
Mastrantoni, who served on the committee that evaluated the four companies responding to the city's request for proposals, said ESCO ranked at the top.
If the new energy systems the company recommends fail to reduce costs as expected, he said the company would make up the difference.
"We can make the improvements without them, but our customers would pay for them," he said.
In other business, the board hired C.T. Thornburg to add pressure and flow readings to the telemetry at the Texas Street, Rice Boulevard and Weircrest booster stations.
When the work is finished, Mastrantoni said crews would be able to monitor pump pressure and flow in those areas. "It will put us on to leak scenarios much earlier," he said.
The board also agreed to spend up to $8,500 to repair one of two Lee Avenue pumps.
Chief Operator Chuck Tennaglio said the problem appears to be a mechanical seal, "and no one on staff has the expertise to make the repairs."