The monthly meeting was a matter of meters.
The Columbus Light and Water Board of Directors heard two presentations during its regular meeting Thursday, both on the subject of the new water meters currently being installed. The $3.52 million project includes the installation of approximately 11,126 water meters throughout Columbus.
Board members voted to pay off the bulk of the remaining balance during the meeting. Roughly $75,000 in engineering and other fees will be carried into next month.
CL&W consultant and Neel-Schaffer engineer John Cunningham’s report shows there will be a cost overrun on the project of approximately $53,000, most of it attributed to adding more meters than originally planned.
Installation began in June, according to CL&W director Todd Gale.
“We have 279 meters left to install,” he said. “We hope to have those in by the end of January.”
CL&W has had roughly 10,900 of the new meters installed.
The other presentation came from Columbus businessman Ronnie Richardson, who came before the board to dispute billing irregularities he believes to be related to the new meters.
Richardson, who owns Richland Realty, said he noticed temporary spikes in water bills at several of his properties immediately after the new meters were installed.
“We were told they were leaks when (CL&W) came out to inspect the problem,” Richardson said. “But our maintenance people know how to check for leaks. I don’t believe the charges were because of leaks because after that first month, the bills went back to what they had been before.”
Richardson said his August bill — which reflects July usage — was a little more than $400 at his office location. He said the bill is normally around $36.
He also brought bills from his other properties, but board member Andrew Colom urged him to bring back a one-page summary of his complaint.
“We’re getting too much in the weeds here,” Colom told Richardson. “What I suggest is that you put your complaint down on a single page that focuses on the problem and come back to us next month. We’ll be happy to look at it.”
Gale said there are no formal procedures for settling disputes.
“Usually, the appeals process ends with me, but after talking to Mr. Richardson, it was obvious we just weren’t communicating, so I invited him to come before the board,” Gale said. “I felt like the board really needed to hear this, so I put him on the agenda”
Gale said he had received no other complaints about the new meters.
“Aside from having to have about 50 of the more than 1,000 meters we put in replaced because they were three-quarter inch when they should have be an inch, it’s gone pretty smoothly,” Gale said.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.