Automated water meter program hits snags

Automated water meter  program hits snagsIWV Water District President Ron Kicinski, outgoing Vice President Chuck Griffin and Director Chuck Cordell discuss concerns about the automated metering program at Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting. — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

After the Indian Wells Valley Water District rolled out its automated metering infrastructure pilot program last year, several thousand customers now have digital meters automatically reporting information to the district. But a handful of customers are reportedly having issues attributed to the new meters.

“Are we having a problem with [the automated meters] as far as reads?” asked IWVWD Vice President Chuck Griffin during a board meeting on Tuesday. “I’m getting a lot of people calling me. All kinds of people are stopping me about this, and I know I’ve experienced problems.”

District CFO Tyrell Staheli said the district has received only “a couple” of complaints from the several thousand customers who are now outfitted with automatic meters.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of feedback as far as negative feedback,” he said. “Just a few here and there.”

The automated meters allow for minute-by-minute readings that are automatically reported to the district office. In theory the new infrastructure can quickly detect leaks or other problems to prevent water waste.

But during public comment, one customer reported that his water bill spiked from $90 per month to more than $400.

“We can’t figure out why,” said customer Ryan Abbatoye. “We’ve had multiple people check out our property, we came in and talked to you guys. We had you test the meter and it came back good. The next month, the water bill was even higher.”

Abbatoye said that once he had an old meter put back in, the bill returned to its normal amount without making any other changes.

Griffin suggested he opt out of the AMI program, something he said he was also going to do, because he “thinks there’s a problem with it.”

The board asked staff to prepare a report on Abbatoye’s case so they can see about addressing the financial issues of his high water bills. But it’s unclear whether or not the automated meter is to blame for the issue.

According to staff, then they check manual reads against the automated ones, they typically come back with 98- to 99-percent accurate reads.

Griffin said he was willing to remain in the AMI program if the district also installed an old meter on his property so they could monitor any irregularities between the two meters.

“I think people are having issues,” said Griffin.

Director Don Cortichiato seconded that idea.

“Chuck is well known and he’s a good spokesperson,” said Cortichiato. “If he becomes a believer and supporter of AMI, it will only be beneficial to the district. And if there are problems, fine. Let’s fix them.”

Tuesday was the last board meeting for Griffin as he and Director Peter Brown, who was absent, will be replaced by Stan Rajtora and David Saint-Amand in December.

The IWV Water District regularly meets on the second Monday of the month. The next meeting will be Dec. 10, 6 p.m., at the water district office.

Story First Published: 2018-11-16