Bude leaders talk shortfall of water meters for customers

by Sean Dunlap

The subject of digital water meter placement — most notably the lack of them at some locations across the municipality — came to the forefront during the Bude Board of Aldermen regular monthly business meeting on Tuesday, June 7.
Town Clerk Kim Vaughn said customers have been coming in seeking to establish water service, but digital meters have not been installed that would connect them to the municipality’s potable water system.

“These locations are not abandoned houses, but places where someone has moved or might not have been there in the past and there is not a meter there,” Vaughn said.

“The question we have is whether the town is responsible for the placement of the meter or if the customer should be responsible, which I don’t personally agree with. Additionally, should Greenbriar (the contractor which installed the digital water meters) have to go back and place meters where they were not installed?”

Town attorney Mary Kathryn Williamson said the problem apparently stems from a master written list that was provided by the town to Greenbriar regarding where to install those meters.

“That’s where they put them,” Williamson went on to say. “Apparently, that list was not sufficient.”

The meters were installed to replace outdated analog measuring devices that were broken or not providing reliable readings town-wide related to water usage.

Alderman Jillian Dunmore said previous discussions by the board had focused on the responsibility of new water customers who wanted to connect with the system after the town initially installed meters.
“If nobody was living at the location when the meters went it, my understanding was they would be responsible for getting their own meters,” she added.

Mayor Linda Green said that could open a new set of problems where a customer could ask to take the meter should the individual pay for the device and then move at a later date.

“If I were to purchase a meter for my house, then I would want to take it with me if I left,” Green said.

To expand on that point, Williamson said the town did not charge existing customers when their water meters were changed out and did not see charging new customers for a meter — outside of approved tap fees and deposits — as a viable option.

Vaughn went on to suggest the municipality should have had a surplus of meters on hand to address new customers — something that did not happen due to the contractor going by the list given it by the town.

“Correct me if I am wrong, but there should have been a meter for every vacant lot,” Vaughn added. “Did we get any unused meters when Greenbriar finished their installation?”

Williamson said the number of meters installed was apparently based on totals provided by the town based on the customers connected to the water system.

“We went from day one saying that when someone new comes in — and the contractor gave us a price for the meters — we could put them in later as needed,” she added.

“I suggest we have five or six new meters on hand at any given time that can be installed.”

Elvia Brown, who works for the Bude Public Works Department, said the town has taken up about 20 meters that were placed at houses where no one was living and has tagged where those meters came from should they need to be reinstalled.

As the overall meter installation process has not been officially closed out, town officials said they would contact Greenbriar to determine if the contractor has any additional meters from the project that belong to the town for new service requests.

In other action during the business meeting, the Bude Board of Aldermen:

• Approved the recommendation of Vaughn to close two separate bank accounts and to roll those funds into other accounts.

Vaughn sought the closure of a Rural Development law enforcement account containing around $6,000 and shifting those dollars to the general fund and a Modernization account holding around $18,000 with those funds to be disbursed between the general fund and the town’s water-sewer fund.

• Authorized a pay request totaling $7,330 from Dungan Engineering related to professional services connected with a federal Community Development Block Grant for wastewater infrastructure improvements.

The project will provide for the replacement of 1,500 feet of gravity sewer mains along with cleaning and video inspection of sewer lines as well as the lining and rehabilitation of lines and manholes in the area around Railroad Avenue.

Federal funds will be paying the entire cost of the project with no local matching dollars required.

Bids for the project were slated to be opened by municipal leaders and Dungan Engineering representatives on Tuesday, June 14 at Bude Town Hall.

• Voted to sign an agreement with the AJFC Community Action Agency to allow the town to accept payments from the human-service agency on behalf of municipal water and sewer customers who seek assistance through the organization in paying their bills due to hardships.

• Approved the payment of the town’s claims docket as well as its May, 2022 employee payroll.

The next meeting for the Bude Board of Aldermen is scheduled for 6 p.m., on Tuesday, July 5 at town hall on Railroad Avenue.

The meeting is open to the public.