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CL&W concerned about slow meter installation


Nathan Gregory



Columbus Light and Water board members on Thursday sent a message to the company installing new water meters in the city: Pick up the pace. 


The board sent a letter to Utility Metering Solutions expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of progress the company has made. They also put UMS' bonding company on notice. If the board remains dissatisfied with progress by the time it meets again next month, a UMS representative will have to appear before the board. 


John Cunningham of Neel-Schaffer, a local engineering firm CL&W contracts with for services, is supervising the project, which calls for UMS to install 11,126 meters by the end of the year. Cunningham said the company was installing an average of 32 meters a day. It is supposed to install 57 a day, meaning progress was just under 50 percent behind schedule. The board has already paid the company more than $2 million of the $3.52 million it is owed. 


Upon learning that news and Cunningham's recommendation to pay for materials, board vice president Jimmy Graham asked Cunningham and board attorney Jeff Smith when the board should put UMS' bonding company on notice.  


"How can you recommend making this payment when they're 50 percent behind schedule?" Graham asked. "We've lived by the contract. We got a bad contract to start with, but we've lived off the bad contract. Now right off the bat, they're 50 percent behind and we're talking about sending them another $290,000?" 


Cunningham explained that the payment was for materials CL&W already had and not of labor. Based on that, board member Andrew Colom said there was no choice but to pay. 


"If we don't send it, we're sending a very heavy signal and it's going to get litigious," Colom said. "I'm not saying that they're not at fault. I'm just saying the reality of the situation is what we're paying for is not for the installation, but for right now is not for the installation, but for the meters we currently have." 


Board member Brandy Gardner asked Cunningham if UMS planned to get more people on board to install the meters. 


"When (UMS) came before the board with their presentation, part of their explanation included that they would seek out some local help, and that has not worked out," Cunningham said. 


CL&W entered into the contract with UMS in March. Graham and former board president David Shelton voiced opposition to the move and questioned the quality of the meters UMS planned to install. The Dispatch reported that the meters, which are Mueller Systems Bronze 400 Series. Two other electric departments -- one in Cleveland, Mississippi and another in Oklahoma -- have reported issues with the meters. 


In other business, board members unanimously elected Colom to serve as board president beginning next month. They also unanimously re-appointed Graham to serve as vice president. Thursday's meeting was the first for new member Micheal Tate. Columbus councilmen picked him to serve on the board instead of re-appointing Shelton. 


The board also approved a request for $24,024 in labor to install ornamental lighting on the new entrance to the soccer complex from Highway 82 and along Coretta Street. Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau board members agreed to pay $21,136 for supplies when they met Monday.


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.



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