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City’s water meter updates trickle off

Officials cite supply-chain issues

xYOUNGSTOWN — The meter is running on the city’s often-delayed plan to replace water equipment for its 52,000 residential customers.

The latest delay is caused by a lack of residential water meters as a result of national supply chain issues, said Water Commissioner Harry L. Johnson III.

“We do not have inventory,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. I’m not happy about it, but there is nothing we can do about it. Other municipalities are having the same issue.”

The city ran out of residential water meters in early May, Johnson said. There could be a partial shipment of about 600 meters arriving in the next week or so, Johnson said.

The city’s board of control approved a $6.69 million contract on April 30, 2015, with Sensus, a Morrisville, N.C., company, to purchase 52,000 new meters for its water customers in Youngstown, Austintown, Boardman, Liberty and Canfield.

The city last changed its water meters in 1987, meaning they’re outdated and well past their useful life, said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, and chairman of the public utilities committee.

“It’s unfortunate we’ve had a variety of obstacles to set us back,” Ray said. “I’d like to put an end to this.”

The new meters allow for better leak detection and notification of system problems before they adversely impact water bills, according to the city’s water department website.

The new meters allow water usage to be determined more accurately as bills for the old meters are “calculated on estimated and / or inaccurate meter readings. This can lead to incorrect bills and possibly mask problems that are occurring at your residence,” the website states.

The installations of the new meters started in 2015, but it was a slow rollout.

Then the city stopped installing water meters in March 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t start it back up for about a year, Johnson said.

The city has installed about 30,700 meters to date, he said.

“Our goal was to exceed 35,000 this year, and I don’t know if we will be able to reach that,” Johnson said.

The goal was to have the meters project finished by 2020, but that was pushed back to 2023.

“It will take longer than (2023) because of the COVID pandemic and then supply chain issues,” Johnson said

A completion date is not known, he said.

Ray said: “You see this ripple effect. It doesn’t take much to disrupt the supply chain.”

Ray wants city officials to work on a “realistic timeline” for completion of the meter installation program.

“It’s been going on for so long,” he said.

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