Washington City Council members expressed concern Monday night to representatives of the companies installing the automated water meter reading system in Washington.
During the administration/operations committee meeting, Greg Masters from Siemens Building Technologies and Johnny Burgess from Pedal Valve Inc. both addressed the council and provided an update on the project.
Certification for payment was tabled at the last City Council meeting, pending explanation of the billing process and problems being addressed.
“We’re to the point now where we’ve got the entire backbone of the system installed,” Masters said, adding that in June 750 residents were billed off the system.
Additionally, Masters said that about 90 percent of meters are on hand and about 21 percent of the meters have been installed.
Mayor Sandy Lucy said that even though the meters are here, they’re sitting in a warehouse. She also said there are complaints from residents about getting the meters installed.
“Residents are concerned and upset because they take off work to wait for the installer to show and he doesn’t come, and I hear that all the valves aren’t tightened and there are leaks in the end,” she said.
Lucy said the council began to wonder why they are continuing to pay for a job that they’re not satisfied with.
Masters said more than 1,800 meters have been installed, and there have been mistakes in the field previously.
He said that there’s a weekly meeting with Kevin Quaethem, water/wastewater superintendent, where problems are addressed.
“We all believe that the customer is number one,” Masters said. “We’re trying to satisfy each and every one of them.”
Councilman Joe Holtmeier said that even if that is the case, Masters needs to stress that belief to subcontractors.
“I know we’ve had some issues, but we’re trying to work through them,” Masters said.
Burgess said each complaint is logged and the complaint ratio is under 1 percent.
“Being at a less than 1 percent error ratio, I don’t know exactly how much closer we can get to zero,” he said. “I assure you that every problem reported, we thoroughly investigate and document every single issue.”
Masters said that leaks happen, and that he didn’t want to blame it on old or existing plumbing, but that seems to be where some of the issues are stemming from.
“We will make mistakes,” Burgess said, “but we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure those mistakes are corrected and to make sure those mistakes don’t happen in the first place.”
A councilman said that in one instance, a resident said that an installer came at 4 p.m. and said it would take longer than a half hour to install the valve, so he would come back Monday.
In another instance, a resident complained that the installer never showed up on the correct day and the homeowner had to take off work the next day to wait for him.
“To my knowledge, of the 1,800 we have installed, we have missed two appointments,” Burgess said.
He said there is a floater, who helps cover jobs if an installation is taking longer than planned so appointments aren’t missed.
Rain dates also were discussed. Lucy said on one day it rained and installers didn’t notify residents that they wouldn’t be installing the meters.
“Every day, we’re addressing 48 to 50 accounts,” Burgess said. “If we have a rainout that morning at 9 a.m., it’s almost impossible for us to call everyone within that hour and to get contact.”
Burgess said they do work in the rain as much as possible, but rain presents other issues.
“We can’t pay guys to sit around the shop,” he said.
Burgess also explained issues with people not receiving return calls. He said that after four attempts to contact a resident, accounts are turned over to the city.
A first and second notification are made by door hanger. The second two attempts are made by phone calls.
Additionally, there are 193 accounts that are “no contact.” Masters said that there is discussion on what to do with the accounts.
Installation of the meters began in April and is expected to continue through September.
Masters said he would come to future board of public works meetings and to council administrations/operations committee meetings as he is asked.
The committee said a pay request would be passed to the city council to be voted on at the July 2 meeting.