Admin: All meters read in person by Aug. 1

Published 12:14 am Saturday, June 30, 2018

LAPLACE — Parish administrators say consistent water meter reading and billing should be in place in five weeks.

St. John the Baptist Utilities Director Blake Fogleman explained that goal to Parish Council members this week, saying 100 percent of parish meters would start receiving in-person reads once a month by Aug. 1.

Whether that is accomplished through the use of current parish personnel or through hired meter-reading contract staffers is being determined, Fogleman noted, saying he was still meeting with contractors to discuss pricing options.

Fogleman said, unfortunately, manual reading leaves room for human error through transcribing mistakes but offers a significant improvement over the current system of estimated billing or outdated laptop computer drive-by metering.

Meters utilized in the parish today were designed for electronic reading once a month by staff members driving past each site and recording water usage on a laptop signal sent from the meter.

Residents were told that system was designed to last ten years, which passed more than two years ago for many of the in-place meters.

The outdated system, which features faulty meters, faulty registers and old pipes, leads to dramatically spiked bills and off-schedule billing.

The in-person meter reading, parish residents are told, is a stop-gap measure designed to accurately read and bill customers while Parish Council members and administrators formulate a multi-million dollar replacement that could take 16 months or more to implement.

Councilman Larry Snyder said most of the meters are very visible north of Airline Highway from River Forest to East St. John High, making in-person reading of those meters pretty easy.

“We need to make sure the people on the southside (of Airline Highway) and all other places in St. John Parish have their meters found and read properly,” Snyder said.

“If we can get some contractors in here, we can get it done by Aug. 1. I know we can.”

During the public comment portion of the Parish Council’s most recent meeting, several residents expressed frustration with continued water billing inaccuracies.

One resident stated his meter had not been read in 16 months.

“Something needs to be done,” the resident said. “I don’t care if it’s one penny or one dollar (overcharge) from a bill; it’s theft. It’s intentional. Somebody should be held responsible for what needs to be done. We pay taxes for the meters. Get the meters read, whatever it takes. Hire some people.”

Councilman Michael Wright said Council members have been asking for contractor help for months.

“I believe it can happen; it just depends on how soon (the administration) can come forward with contract meter readers,” Wright said. “I, myself, have had an estimated bill for months at a time.

“Recently, somebody had a bill for almost $1,000. Nonetheless, I hope to be at the finish line soon so we can start to finally get some stability.”