City board approves contracts to recover lost utility revenue

Published 10:00 am Sunday, December 10, 2023

With the City of Vicksburg losing more than $1 million a year in utility revenues because of old and inefficient water meters, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen hope two agreements approved Friday will stop the losses.

The board Friday signed agreements with St. Louis, Mo.-based Core & Main and Water Company of America of Houston, Texas, to resolve the problem. Core & Main will evaluate the city’s meter system, while WCA will serve as project manager to oversee replacing the city’s water meters with a new system of meters. Mike Necaise, WCA’s regional manager for the Gulf Coast, has estimated the total cost to replace the meters at $8.5 million.

Core & Main “are going to analyze the whole system from the meter back to the building — water and gas. We’re losing about $1.2 million (a year) in revenue,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said after the meeeting.

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WCA’s fee for overseeing the meter installation is 20 percent of the increased revenue from the project for 36 months. Core & Main’s agreement does not include a fee for its service.

A 2022 study of the city’s water meters by WCA indicated the city’s 11,000 meters — including 7,400 residential meters — are 23 years old and 23 percent of them are not communicating with the city’s billing system, putting a strain on the utility billing staff and the public works department and should be replaced.

The meter study was done as part of an overall study of the city’s water distribution system by Houston, Texas-based Trilogy Engineering in the wake of the 2021 ice storm.

At an Oct. 11 meeting with the board, Necaise said Trilogy was to develop a water and sewer master plan, as well as review the city’s water distribution system and see if the city could account for the water moving through the system.

The study, he said, indicated that 48 percent of the water going through the city’s system was unaccounted for, meaning the city was billing customers for less water than it produced.

Necaise said 48 percent “is considered high for any system. The typical industry standard is somewhere between 20 and 25 percent.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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