ZEPHYRHILLS — The "City of Pure Water" has invested millions in state-of-the-art billing and leak-detection technology in order to ensure more accurate readings for customers.
During a ribbon cutting last week, Zephyrhills City Manager Steve Spina announced that the city has launched a new smart grid water system through Arizona-based Fathom, a company that is making its first foray into Florida with its cloud-based technology, offering new meters, software, utility billing services and customer care operations.
The effort, which carries a hefty $6 million price tag over two years, followed by a 10-year contract to run the system, brings much-needed upgrades to the city's water system, which customers over the years had lost faith in due to poor leak detection and meter reading, Spina said. The system will also help the city make huge strides in water conversation, and costs will be recouped as the city dramatically decreases its water losses, Spina said.
"It's both an economical and environmental boost," he said.
Fathom officials said the new system allows for real-time access to water usage data, as well as online and mobile account management and the ability to pay bills. The project entails construction of 12,768 water meters in the city and 18 antennas.
During the ribbon cutting, state Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, recalled watching the city he grew up in move from drive-through services at City Hall to online bill-paying capabilities.
"Zephyrhills has always done a great job of staying on the cutting edge of things," Burgess said.
Spina told the Tampa Bay Times he is looking forward to avoiding situations that used to come across his desk in which people did not know they had a leak and faced a huge water bill. It is especially important for a community that has a lot of snowbirds, he said.
"I have seen situations where people come back to their mobile home and find they had a leak and their bill is $4,000," Spina said. "This will prevent that. We are going to know when we have a leak right away."
Some growing pains are expected as the system is implemented. City Council member Lance Smith questioned Spina about complaints he has received from residents who say they have to set up a new password and obtain a new account number to use the new system. He told the Times that it was believed initially that customers could use their existing information.
Spina said the city, for a couple of months, will waive late fees for customers as they become acclimated to the system.