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SO MUCH FOR TECH: Nearly half of Punta Gorda's updated water meters are broken!

A meter reader contract to collect the data while repairs are made could cost the city more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Posted at 4:47 PM, Mar 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-06 16:47:57-05

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — On March 6, the Punta Gorda City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract with a manual meter reading company as a temporary solution for its broken meters.

It took 2 years to install 14,000 modernized water meters back in 2017... and now the city says more than 6,000 of them have failed or are in the midst of failing!

The new meters were supposed to allow water usage readings to be sent to the city without needing a manual or in-pers9on reading. But components in the new meters have failed, leading to some customers getting estimated bills based on last year’s usage.

Now the city has entered into a year-long contract with Wisconsin based meter reading company, Olameter, to bring in manual readers. The contract has an estimated maximum cost of $319,800, which will bring in three readers being paid $51.25 working 40 hour weeks.

They need the extra people, so city employees can focus on fixing thousands of meters.

"This will allow staff to focus their attention on assessment and repair of the existing equipment."
Punta Gorda City Council Regular Agenda 8c.

Despite the contract agreeing to a year long term, the city can exit the contract if the meters are repaired before the end of the term and readers are no longer required.

District 3 Council Member Debroah Lux is hoping for that outcome.

“We should as a city hopefully be able to get this corrected sometime in six months, not maybe fully corrected but be able to have our staff not overworked,” said Lux.

However, City Manager Greg Murray reminded the group that the repair timeline can also be impacted by factors outside of the city's control.

“The meter techs can do about 1200 meters a month, potentially if parts are available and if they are not engaged in replacing other failing meters,” said Murray.

The Olameter employees are expected to start reading meters in the city sometime this month.