McDuffie County may go wireless in the near future.
At the joint government retreat on Aug. 6, officials heard a proposal for a study on a wireless communications system that could connect the water tanks and pumps in the water and sewer system to collect data.
Depending on how far leaders want to go, an updated communications system could be expanded as far as having wireless internet connectivity available for county residents.
The two month, $50,000 study - if officials decide to go forward with it - will include a comprehensive plan to upgrade the system. The Georgia Tech Research Institute would conduct the study if approved by the city councils of Thomson and Dearing as well as the county commission and the Water and Sewer Commission.
"This takes that concept that you put together five or six years ago and moves it forward," said McDuffie County Information Technology Department Director Kelly Evans.
According to Stephen Macke of GTRI, the study would review the baseline of wireless connectivity, check current connectivity between sites, inventory equipment, develop a plan for action and a budget, create a team of stakeholders and show phased-in improvements.
"You'll get more than $50,000 worth of ownership out of this project," Mr. Macke said.
After 18 months of discussion on the best way to collect telemetry data on the water and sewer systems, Mrs. Evans presented the option of the study to officials. The presentation at the retreat was a way for them to get familiarized with what GTRI does and what information they would receive from the study.
"This is where we are headed. We are going to clip wires in the next 20 years," Mrs. Evans said. "The wired system that we've got currently is not going to be strong enough to take us into the future. ... If you've got to do telemetry anyway, let's go ahead and cut all the fat."
At the least, improvements made to the communications system would connect 14 pump stations and three water treatment plants. Currently, city workers have to check data by driving to a plant.
Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders said the water system lends itself to wireless communication and could be a way to save labor.
"We've got five water tanks, that's like five big old antennas," he said.
Mr. Macke said the cost of implementing a wireless system could be $250,000 to $750,000, depending on how a ridge along the northern end of the county affects the signal.