LARGO — Pinellas County commissioners listened to reports from Utilities Director Megan Ross on North County Reclaimed Water Master Plan improvements and the use of advance metering for reclaimed and drinking water throughout the county during Dec. 7, the last regular meeting of 2021.

Commissioners also heard reports on improvements proposed in the North County Reclaimed Water Master Plan that would enhance existing supply capabilities and ensure the ability to meet future demand with improved availability.

Advanced metering for both reclaimed and drinking water has a number of benefits, Ross said. One meter would be used for both types of water, allowing reclaimed water to be billed by actual use. Currently some are using more than their fair share but all are paying the same amount.

Staff and residents will be able to monitor and analyze water usage in real time and water leaks can be detected quickly. Meter readers now have to go and manually read each meter. It takes 60 days to read all the meters in the county. With the advanced meters that manual labor won’t be required. The county would have the capability to bill once a month instead of every two months, which is how it done now.

Ross said 80% of water meters are at the end of their useful life and need to be replaced. She said replacing the old meters with those with advance capability would save $17 million over the next 20 years.

The change of the county’s 128,000 meter is scheduled to begin in early 2022. The project should be done by November 2025. The estimated cost would be $72 million.

In other business, commissioners continued the discussion about how to best spend $189 million from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan. Some disagreement remains on how to help nonprofit agencies. Some believe it is better to give a small amount to many agencies and others think it would be best to give more substantial sums to fewer groups.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.