Mayor Jamie Mayo.jpg

Mayor Jamie Mayo teased his newest branding campaign for the city of Monroe Tuesday when the Monroe City Council considered a plan to upgrade residents’ water meters.

Hearkening to the “Monroe Proud” slogan that became emblematic of Mayo’s tenure, Mayo said the new campaign — focusing on using more smart technology in city projects — would be called “Monroe Smart.”

“This is just one step toward many in terms of having a smart city,” Mayo said. “We’re calling it ‘Monroe Smart.’”

“Monroe Smart” would be the focus of his State of the City address on Thursday (today), too, he said.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the City Council considered a resolution to authorize a professional services agreement with Utility Metering Solutions for $69,000. Utility Metering Solutions would consult the city on how best to upgrade the water meter system, according to Sean Benton, the city’s water system director.

“We want to have the most cost-effective option available,” Benton said. “We want to save the taxpayers as much money as possible.”

City Councilman Doug Harvey, who represents District 1, asked whether an evaluation of the water meters indicated the water meters were at fault for water bills doubling or tripling for residents in his district.

“No, it’s not,” Benton said. “This gives the customer more assurance they do have a product that reads accurately.”

The current water meters depended on computer software that was now obsolete, according to Benton.

At that time, Mayo defended the agreement as part of his “Monroe Smart” initiative that would involve improvements to other city departments as well.

According to Benton, Utility Metering Solutions would likely complete its study in three months and make a recommendation to the City Council.

Later, one of the candidates challenging Mayo’s re-election bid — Marie Brown — questioned the agreement on several fronts.

In response, Benton summed up the changes: “We’re adding software. Can they (water meters) be retrofitted or replaced?”

Brown’s battery of questions continued until City Council chairman Juanita Woods interrupted to stop the conversation.

“I just want to get a good understanding of what we’re doing,” Brown said. “You guys have to be ready to answer questions to let people know what’s going on.”

Upgrading water meters at the city last happened in 2009 when the city tried to get away from manually reading water meters, according to Stacey Rowell, the city’s director of administration.

“We were doing manual reads where individuals went out and read every single meter,” Rowell said. “We were on the cutting edge of technology in 2009 when we did this.”

On another front, the City Council authorized the purchase of a SWAT robot and other tactical equipment that would allow police to explore structures where potentially dangerous suspects were hiding.

Monroe Police Interim Chief Reginald “Reggie” Brown informed the City Council about the matter.

“The SWAT robot will allow for deployment of the robot into dangerous structures and provide us with video and sound,” Brown said. “We really need this equipment.”

Brown also thanked the officers who attended the City Council’s meeting Tuesday to support his position as interim chief.

“They could have been anywhere tonight,” Brown said. “But they chose to be here.”

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