If Opelousas customers are questioning their monthly amounts of water and sewer usage or displeased with the size of their bills, municipal public works director Travis VanWright says it’s not the fault of the new meters that are being installed.
“The new water meters are producing bills that are accurate,” VanWright told a packed City Hall meeting room last week.
VanWright added during a presentation before the Opelousas Board of Aldermen that he can verify the veracity of the bills that are being mailed now to water and sewerage users paying for municipal service.
However VanWright emphasized that while he is willing to discuss the issue with customers, that he does not plan to enter into prolonged discussions or harangues about the matter.
“I can show you, but I don’t want to debate the bills. If you can come and talk to me, then we will go out and see if you have a leak,” VanWright added.
The implementation of the new meters for all city water and sewerage customers has progressed more slowly than anticipated, according to VanWright and city engineer William Jarrell III.
VanWright said last week that there were still approximately 1,200 customers awaiting new meters included in the $2.1 million project.
In a September Board of Aldermen meeting, Jarrell alluded to difficulties with both major and minor leaks that occur and are impacting the installation process.
Most of those leaks, Jarrell noted, are happening due to pipes that are old and brittle and in need of replacement.
VanWright added the city is assuming the responsibility for replacing leaks that are happening underneath streets and municipal property.
Fixing leaks that are happening on private land is a different matter, VanWright said.
“If the leak is on your side, then you need to fix the leak. If you have a $300 leak and you fix the leak, then we can help you figure out how to possibly help you with your bill. We see this happening over and over. Your bill is your bill, but the meters are accurate,” VanWright said.
VanWright said that he is amenable to answering complaints and if possible meeting personally with complainants.
Jarrell said at the meeting last week that customers can ascertain in real time their water usage, by accessing the Eye-On-Water website.
“This will allow you to look at your consumption daily and that way you have an updated way of knowing your consumption,” Jarrell said.
Jarrell estimated that the city has identified at least 500 water leaks that he said are attributable to the customer side.
“Those are leaks that are not (the fault of) the city. These leaks have also been putting extreme stress on the water supply. We are finding more leaks that are being repaired on the customer side,” Jarrell said.
Mayor Julius Alsandor pointed out that the customers should strongly consider purchasing a cutoff valve for their residences and commercial buildings.
“You can do that rather than wait for the city to come out,” said Alsandor.
Alsandor said there is also evidence that individuals have been tampering with water lines that are connected to the new meters.
VanWright, who was appointed as public works director by Alsandor, said his department is working hard to respond to street conditions, water leaks and the cleaning of north side canals that are choked with overgrown vegetation.
“We’ve started on the canals and we are doing our best. We have four men out there doing all this work. When we (the city) get more, we will do more,” said VanWright.
VanWright said last week that canal cleaning is occurring in the Sandoz and Perry Lane area in addition to work that is being done around Westwego and Plaisance streets.