Jeffrey Stewart, interim director of LUS, center, visits with Virginia Bienvenu, left, and Jeff Leblanc, right, during a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at South Regional Library in Lafayette.

The Lafayette Utilities System is planning to revamp the way it manages electricity outages, five years after installing a $22 million “smart grid” across the city.

The move is necessary because of flaws in communication between the new meters and LUS’s central software system, LUS Interim Director Jeff Stewart said in an interview Tuesday. LUS staff noticed delays in receiving outage information soon after the system was up and running, he said.

The upgrades should come with additional services for customers, such as an online outage map and text notifications. The changes aren’t happening soon, however, as LUS is currently preparing to solicit vendor proposals and plans to test the new system before rolling it out.

Stewart expects the new system to functioning by the end of next year. The utility system will incur a one-time start up cost of about $1 million, he said.

“It’s going to be a lot more modern, a lot more technologically advanced,” Stewart told City-Parish council members in a budget hearing.

The problem in the current system is not with the new meters, but with LUS’s applications, Stewart told The Advocate.

“Once we made all the meter change outs that we wanted to do, we still saw some disconnect between the field devices and the outage management system,” Stewart said.

Outage management has made headlines recently, with Mayor-President Joel Robideaux accusing LUS of illegally paying LUS Fiber, the city-owned telecommunications system, for duplicative services under Stewart’s predecessor, Terry Huval. The controversial payments totaled about $8 million over eight years, ending last month, Stewart said.

The payments are under review by the Public Service Commission and City-Parish lawyers to determine if they were allowed under the state’s Local Government Fair Competition Act.

Huval has defended the payments, saying that LUS Fiber provided a service that helped all utility customers — not just those who also subscribed to LUS Fiber — that was not available from other providers.

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