HOUSTON CITY HALL

The Houston City Council approved a project Tuesday to upgrade its utility metering system.

The $277,444 outlay will allow the city to transition to an automatic reading system that measures usage with the data transmitted into a hub at city hall. The cost includes the installation of technology throughout the city that allows the information to be transmitted for billing purchases. Of the total cost, about $160,000 will come from surplus funds in the current budget.

City employees will also be able to remotely connect or disconnect meters. Other features include the ability to provide an accurate historical record of usage and would allow a consumer to pre-buy electricity and see how much remains on their balance at any time of the month.

Nexgrid is installing a similar system at Salem and is the technology used by Licking-based Intercounty Electric, a rural electric cooperative. Cabool has a similar project underway with a different firm. Houston will pay the company, which is based in Fredericksburg, Va.,  another $100,000 for installation.

It is estimated that meters for the system will cost about $450,000 and take about three years to deploy. The project will be rolled out in phases with the first leg including electric meters for city-owned property. Next, a section of town will be targeted before a full implementation city-wide. Eventually water meters will also be added.

The council also approved inspection of electric poles and a basic treatment at the base to preserve them. Osmose Utilities Service Inc., which is headquartered in Atlanta with field offices in New York, will perform the project at a cost of $55 per pole with a basic treatment.  The city has about 550 poles with 26 already targeted for full replacement.

The project’s aim is to prevent decay and deterioration of the pole system that includes about 18 miles.

An electronic document of the city’s poles also will result from the project.

In other matters, members:

•Amended their 2020 city budget to include revenue from a Community Improvement District that is expected to go on the books Jan. 1. The sales tax benefits Texas County Memorial Hospital and a new surgery center.

•Split on a 4-2 vote to purchase a city administration vehicle from Bailey Chevrolet in Willow Springs rather than buy it locally. Alderman Joe Honeycutt asked the council to consider its role in supporting local businesses who benefit the economy. Councilman Charles “Chalky” Wells wondered about the convenience of service work being done out of the county. The difference in bids was about $800. Voting nay were Honeycutt and  Wells. Supporting the purchase were Councilpersons Kevin Stilley, Michael Weakly, Kim Bittle and Viki Narancinch.

•Will update the city website under a $8,900 proposal from New Age Graphics of Lee’s Summit.

•Approved seeking bids for the demolition of a bath house at West Side Park, where a new municipal swimming pool will be constructed next year. The building will be leveled and temporary fencing installed. Voters approved a city sales tax earlier this year, and the city obtained a $250,000 grant for the pool.

•Approved a partial year’s payment of about $46,000 for all of the city’s insurance coverages — except for workmen’s compensation — with the Missouri Intergovernmental Risk Management Association (MIRMA). The council recently approved the move to the Columbia-based organization whose members are cities. The city said it expects significant savings.  The firm visited in Houston last Thursday.

•Received a draft of an ordinance that better clarifies utility easements.

•Received a preliminary draft of a zoning document as the council works to update its existing ordinance. Zoning from the communities of Salem, Seymour, Salisbury, Perryville and O’Fallon has been examined. The goal is to have the project completed in February. City Administrator Scott Avery said the draft document is designed to provide a basic foundation for Houston as it looks to improve the existing ordinance. Later, codes will be tackled.

•Heard Avery report that resurfacing of U.S. 63 from Cleveland Road to Highway U at Solo is expected in 2020 by MoDOT. He attended a regional transportation meeting. He told the council that shoulders for Highway 17 continue to be a MoDOT priority.

•Learned that an ordinance for “tiny houses” would be developed after recent inquiries. Those likely would be targeted for areas suitable for apartments and condominiums.

•Heard Avery propose periodic work sessions with the council to discuss in detail various projects.

•Discussed that possibility of an occupancy inspection for rental properties and homes when new tenants are scheduled.

•Decided to seek qualifications from firms for architectural services for a new pool house for the municipal pool. The company also might be engaged later for possible ball fields and a civic center.

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