Smart Water Meters Coming to Baltimore City and County

Nov 6, 2013

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake talking about the contract approved Wednesday by the Board of Estimates for smart water meters to be installed in Baltimore City and County.
Credit P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a contract Wednesday paving the way for the installation of smart water meters in the city and Baltimore County.

The contract to replace the system’s problem-plagued meters, worth $83.5 million, went to Washington state-based Itron, Inc.

Four of the board’s five members voted for the contract. Comptroller Joan Pratt abstained because it failed to require quarterly progress reports from Itron.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who sits on the board, said she hopes the awarding of the contract to would be a step forward towards reliability and efficiency in a system where customers have been getting inaccurate water bills for decades.

“We’ve all heard the horror stories, and some of us may have even experienced the shock of an outrageously high or inaccurate water bill,” said Rawlings-Blake, “This is a first step towards addressing this issue.”

Columbia-based Dynis, LLC, whose bid was $100 million more than Itron’s, protested prior to the vote. The firm cited concerns about the procurement process and said the winning bid was too good to be true.

The mayor said the board staff investigated the complaints and found the city has safeguards to protect it from the concerns raised by Dynis.

Tim Krus, the city’s purchasing agent, said Dynis’ unit pricing was “significantly higher” than Itron’s.  He added the pricing from the winning company was “well within” the range expected from engineering estimates.

The city Department of Public Works said that there will be no "opt-out" option available to customers.  Smart water meters are expected to be in operation by April 2016 in Baltimore City and April 2017 in Baltimore County.