Roughly 2,600 water meters still awaiting installation

Published 2:17 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

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LAPLACE—A long awaited and oft-delayed water meter project has once again been met with a setback even as it enters its final stages.

Installation of about 2,600 water meters that have been delayed for nearly a year have to wait a while longer as St. John the Baptist Parish officials regroup after closing out the original contract with Greenup Industries. The original contract expired in May 2022, but Rob Delaune, senior vice president of Digital Engineers in Metairie, told council members in March there were unknowns that prevented the parish from extending the contract.

The principal unknown was the high level of the Mississippi River a year ago that prevented meter installations within 1,500 feet of the levee. Also contributing to the delays was a shortage of materials.

Delaune said extending the contract would have cost the parish $16,742 per month for required contractor costs, including warehousing and licensing fees when no installations could be completed.

The parish Utilities Department began moving the project materials from the contractor’s warehouse to parish-owned facilities in June to eliminate the accruing costs. The meters remained stored in those parish facilities.

Parish President Jaclyn Hoard said for the past year there has been no clear timeframe as to when installation could resume. Consequently, the parish began to close out process with Greenup, which was lengthy.

By the time river levels began to subside, the close out process was far enough along where it could not be reversed, the parish was told by the Louisianan Department of Environmental Quality.

As a result of the closeout, the parish is receiving a $523,826 deduction based on actual work completed and quantities used, actual quantity of box replacements completed and additional warehousing and storage needed.

Delaune said the deduction from the original contract will cover the cost of finding a new company to install the final 2,600 meters. When asked, he said of the 2,600 meters yet to be installed, about 2,000 are within 1,500-foot buffer so the terms of the new contract include language mandating those must be completed first to avert additional potential delays in the event the river should rise again.

The parish’s original contract with Greenup totaled $5.2 million.

The project dates to 2016 when residents began receiving faulty water bills, some of which totaled hundreds of dollars. Ultimately, a decision was made to install an internet-based water meter reading and billing system, but even that decision resulted in additional legal complexities.

Those legalities included a 2019 lawsuit, which, at the time, threatened to delay installation into 2020. Three years later, more than 2,000 remain uninstalled.

“We are going to move as quickly as we can,” Delaune told council members.

Council members did approve a request by the parish to advertise for a Request for Proposals to install the remaining the 2,600 water meters.

In other action, the council approved a change order totaling $11,645 with Pivotal Engineering for the repair of ceiling joists, hurricane ties and blocking at the REGALA racquetball storage building and installation of a new ceiling joists and insulation at the REGALA pool house. The change order also added 10 calendar days to the project.