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Punta Gorda works to fix thousands of malfunctioning water meters

Over 6,000 of Punta Gorda's water meters need to be replaced or repaired
Posted at 6:04 PM, Jan 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-23 18:04:19-05

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Over 6,000 water meters in Punta Gorda have malfunctioned and are unable to generate accurate bills for customers, leaving the city to try and remedy a fractured utility system.

According to Melissa Reichert, Punta Gorda's Assistant City Manager, the project to renovate the city's water meters started in 2017. The goal was to install meters that automatically transmit a reading to the city without manually reading the meters.

"City Council bid the project out. We had a number of solicitations that were received, our due diligence was done and the contractor Florida Line was selected," Reichert told Fox 4. "The meters were installed, and we had everything working up to 98.5%, but over the past couple of years pieces of the equipment started to fail."

Now, components in more than 6,000 of the approximately 14,000 water meters installed have failed.

"It's the transmitters that are failing," said Reichert. "In some cases its the batteries, in very few cases is it the actual meter that is failing."

The city has been repairing or replacing the faulty meters as fast as it can and sending estimated bills based on last year's water usage to customers whose meters are affected.

In the meantime, the city is looking into buying meter readers to fill the gap while repairs are made.

"We want to get the actual read back to our customers so that is why we are looking at hiring meter readers through a vendor to provide those services," said Reichert.

Fox 4 spoke with Thomas Kerr, who lives in Punta Gorda. He said his meter has been functioning properly, but he sympathizes with his neighbors who are dealing with the inconvenience.

"It's technology, it was the correct approach at the time to try and eliminate meter readers and go around electronically and do it and save money and be more efficient," said Kerr. "But like anything else based on our technology, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."

There is no clear timeline for when the issues will be resolved completely. Punta Gorda residents with issues regarding their water bill should contact the city's billing and collection office at 941-639-2528, or email