Town OKs water meter project, eyes line upgrades

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

October 23, 2013

GARLAND — The town of Garland has moved forward with a comprehensive water meter replacement project that will update the town’s system by leaps and bounds, while also eyeing similar improvements to its equally aging water lines.

“We have started this process,” said Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy. “The (Local Government Commission) gave us permission to borrow the money for the next 20 years, and that was approved at last month’s meeting. We now have to look at the contract for the Leo Green Engineering firm to start his piece.”

Green has been in regular contact with the town since the beginning of this year about a zero-interest loan project that could be financed over the next two decades to overhaul the water meter system, not only improving accuracy and accountability for the town, but also capturing lost revenue through quick detection of water leaks and losses.

The board unanimously approved giving the mayor authorization to sign the contract for the meter replacement project during a recent town meeting. The town previously received permission from the LGC to enter a loan agreement that would upgrade a system that has not received significant improvements in more than half a century.

The high-tech project will 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 will be completed through a $240,550 loan with zero percent interest that could be financed over 20 years.

Town officials said the contract encompasses approximately $50,000 is part of that consulting and engineering services offered by Green Engineering PLLC of Wilson, with roughly $190,000 consisting of equipment replacement and labor costs.

Leo Green Jr., 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 essentially equate to an average of less than $2.75 per customer every month to repay it, Green noted.

Green has touted the possibilities available to the town that would mean a vast upgrade over the current system.

With the approval, town officials 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.

“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 — they received another couple this month — that are believed to occur from water leaks and losses. Along with more accountability and reliability, the amount of resources utilized to do the meter-reading and billing will be decreased immensely with the new equipment. Mapping software will indicate which meters have been read and which have not, and include a myriad of up-to-the-minute data.

The town was obligated to get permission from LGC before it was allowed to issue debt for the large meter replacement project. After tending to some record-keeping and financial card concerns by the LGC a few months ago, Garland subsequently received the go-ahead to move forward with the project proposed by Green Engineering.

They have now done that, and are looking toward another partnership with Green as part of a possible grant application for other aspects of its water system.

Water line project

“When we were in discussion with Leo Green, he mentioned that Community Development Block Grant funding was available to replace our waterlines, which are again. In some cases, they need to be upgraded or changed out — replacing all the galvanized pipes. With this funding, $750,000 is available if that’s what is needed and Garland would have to match 5 percent of that.”

Murphy said that Garland may not need that amount, but it is the maximum that can be allocated through that particular CDBG program. Murphy and Commissioners Ralph Smith and Haywood Johnson met with Green last month to discuss the possibility of updating the waterlines. The town would have to submit an application by the end of the year to be eligible for consideration.

“It could be that the 5 percent match might be with the water meter project alone,” said Murphy. “We might not have to expend that $37,500, if that’s what is needed.”

Prior to moving forward, the Garland board gave its approve for the go-ahead for that waterline project.

“I think it’s something we really need to do,” said Smith. “That line going out to Belgrade (Avenue) down there, we have patched it eight times. Rust has eaten it up. It’s all 2-inch galvanized pipe that’s been down in the ground since 1954 — it’s been there awhile.”

It is possible that the same kind of CDBG funding may be utilized toward street paving, which Green suggested as an option for Garland town officials.

“He said as he roamed through the town of Garland, he had never seen a town with so many unpaved streets,” the mayor remarked. “He did suggest that we get through this project and then try to do the street paving.”

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