With thousands of dollars in savings in mind, Maryville has entered into a new, long-term agreement with a contractor to continue to install automated electric meters throughout the city.

Council members voted unanimously last week to approve a motion awarding Tantalus — a provider of networking infrastructure that sends energy use data from meters to utilities with wireless technology — with a three-year contract.

The city now will pay $289,812 for the meter-reading equipment, city Director of Financial Services Mike Swift said in a phone interview with The Daily Times.

“They came to us,” Swift said of Tantalus, “but we’re always looking for these kind of opportunities, saying ‘How can we be more efficient? How can we work the system?’”

Regardless of the contract’s hefty price tag, the city will end up saving nearly $30,000. “Really, they just handed us an opportunity to save some money,” Swift said.

Maryville has been replacing traditional meters with the automated technology since 2003, when a pilot program also centered on saving money was launched.

The wireless meters allow readings to be completed from a distance rather than by a utilities employee, a process that saves cities money and time.

Technology allowing these devices to function includes digital meters, data centers, modems and a series of other wireless networking instruments.

According to notes on the motion, the electric department standardized on Tantalus equipment a few years ago and consistently has been replacing meter-reading devices fitted with automated reading technology.

Completing the technological overhaul is expected to take three years.

“This is just continuing what we’ve been doing. We just didn’t try to do it all at once,” Swift said.

He added that the decision to enter into a more long-term contract is new. Typically the city has paid Tantalus more than $100,000 annually.

Now it will only pay around $95,00 a year until the contract is complete.

The move to save via long-term planning comes directly after the city passed a fiscal 2020 budget with the future in mind. Five-year projections for Maryville show an intention to save and innovate based on current trends.

But Swift said the contract was not really a part of that larger strategy. “This was more an opportunity that just came up,” he said.

Swift also confirmed no other action from the council was required for the contract to be awarded to Tantalus after the motion passed last week.

Andrew joined The Daily Times in 2019 and covers city government and breaking news.

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