City working to repair meter problems

Published 2:20 am Sunday, January 25, 2009

As reported earlier, Siemens has been contracted to check the accuracy of the water and gas meters in the City of Picayune to see if they need replacing or refurbishing.

Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said the goal of the effort is to restore accuracy and precision to meter readings.

Siemens is doing the study to determine if new meters will be needed or if the current meters can be refurbished. The projected cost of each option will be presented to the council in about 30 days. Only then will the city decide what path it will pursue, Miller said.

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However, if the city decides to go to new meters, it will have the option of installing water and gas meters that can send readings to the city wirelessly and alert customers when they come close to reaching their flat-rate usage limit, Miller said. The second option could help the city’s utility customers better control their monthly bills, he said.

If the city council decides installation of new meters is the best route, about two months would be required to replace them. Miller said Siemens has indicated to the city that the company is capable of replacing about 200 meters per day.

So far, the inspection of the city’s meters and its system has found there are issues besides inaccurate meter readings that need to be addressed. Miller said Siemens has found instances of faulty meter installation, such as one meter attached to a three unit apartment building. Instances such as those cause the city to lose money because three units are getting water, garbage and sewer service for one bill.

The city currently is giving only average rates to residential water customers, a practice Miller said was put in effect for about five months, or until about March, due to inaccurate readings conducted by Meter Reading Specialists. Miller said the Pearl River County Utility Authority was notified by the city that it would be using the average rates for that period of time and he was surprised to read recently that the authority’s board was unaware of the practice.

Meter Reading Specialists will read gas and commercial water meters until the end of January. After that, city employees and an outside contractor will take over reading meters, Miller said.