Garland meter program gets go-ahead

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

August 19, 2013

GARLAND —The town of Garland has been approved to undergo a water meter replacement program, which will upgrade a system that has not received significant improvements in more than half a century.

“That was approved,” Mayor Winifred Murphy confirmed during a recent meeting. “That will save us a lot of time.”

The high-tech and comprehensive project would replace 365 residential water meters and three bulks meters to monitor the currently non-metered Sampson County connection, as well as replace meters on the wells. The project would be completed through a $240,550 loan with zero percent interest that could be financed over 20 years.

However, prior to any loan, the N.C. Local Government Commission (LGC) needed to give its approval. That state go-ahead has now been given, with town officials receiving word about the approval last week. Official notification is pending, and it is unclear when the project will begin.

Leo Green Jr., engineer for Green Engineering PLLC in Wilson, told commissioners earlier this year that the $240,550 loan was ready to go upon approval by the town, and the Garland board subsequently signed and submitted a letter of intent to move forward. Based on the 368 customers in Garland, the loan would cost an average of less than $2.75 per customer every month to repay the loan.

In explaining the system to town board members, he touted the possibilities available to the town that would mean a vast upgrade over the current system.

“The system that is proposed is a radio-read system, where you will be able to sit here in town hall and read the majority of meters in town,” Green has said. “The range is about 4 or 5 miles, so that will pick up everything within your service area. There has been no systematic meter replacement in town since sometime in the 1950s when the system was put in here. That’s 50-plus years.”

Additionally, Garland’s revenues could be drastically improved by a meter replacement program, with engineers estimating about 15 percent revenue growth, around $40,000, once the town’s leaks are detected and loss is recovered.

Garland commissioners get regular complaints from residents about unexpectedly huge water bills that are believed to occur from water losses. Along with more accountability and reliability, the amount of resources utilized to do the meter-reading and billing will be decreased immensely. Green said the equipment’s mapping software will indicate which meters have been read and which have not, and include a myriad of up-to-the-minute data.

With the vehicle radio-read unit, that time is cut down astronomically, down to a matter of seconds.

The recent approval from the LGC comes about five months after engineers said the loan project was ready to go. However, weeks later, the town was informed there were a few items that needed to be dealt with first.

A letter from the LGC, dated May 1, raised concerns of untimely record-keeping and the issuance of a new credit card with a $500 limit but no regulations approved governing the use of card. The board subsequently completed and approved its meeting minutes to get them up to date, and voted to destroy the card.

Sharon Edmundson, director of the Fiscal Management Section of the LGC, said a corrective plan addressing the LGC’s concerns would have to be submitted and signed off on by LGC, which it was, before Garland was allowed to issue debt for a large meter replacement project.

“Since you are planning to issue debt that requires the approval of the Local Government Commission, we must have a complete response to this letter on file prior to the commission’s consideration of your debt application,” Edmundson stated.

With the approval, town officials said they are looking forward to having a fixed-based automated meter reading network that will bring more reliability and accuracy for the town’s well water, while cutting down the resources needed to do it.

“That’s great,” said Roy Lowder with Envirolink, which the town currently contracts with to do its meter readings. Lowder was given the news by Murphy. “That’s outstanding. That is great news.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at