Sparta officials have reversed course again on automated metering for the city’s electric department.
In December, the Sparta Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously agreed to move ahead with the automated metering project. In January, they took another vote reversing position, stating they didn’t believe they could afford the measure.
At it’s regular meeting Thursday, Mayor Jeff Young brought the issue up again, handing out more information. Alderman Jerry Lowery asked what the purpose of the discussion was since the board had already decided against it.
Young said it was the time, money and effort that went into the project. More than 18 months ago, Sparta officials didn’t fill a position in the electric department in preparation for the automated metering. The city also raised electric rates to pay for it.
To completely replace all electric meters in the city and get the associated equipment would be $677,000, Young said, however, the meters need to be replaced anyway, and the empty position filled. “We’ll spend more than $200,000 not to do it,” he said.
Alderman Dr. Chad Griffin said the cost of the empty position and a new truck for that job, added to the cost of the new meters anyway, drops the cost considerably. Also, he said, they can break the total cost of the automated metering up and spend it over the course of 2-3 years. Griffin also said it would drop the cost of starting a new, commercial electric service. At this time, that’s about $2,500 added to the start-up costs of city businesses. Young said that’s kept about 6 new businesses from opening in the last 18 months.
Ultimately, the board approved the measure on a split vote. Lowery and Alderman Robert Officer voted against, with Young, Griffin and vice mayor Jim Floyd, and alderman Hoyte Jones and Judy Payne voting in favor.