Flint, MI– Around 13,000 Flint residents have been unresponsive to requests to install new cellular remote read water meters in their homes, replacing their old ones, city officials said.
The cost for the lack of response is about a quarter of a million dollars.
Flint City Council approved a change order of $234,000 to Vanguard Utility Service, Inc., to extend their contract, which was set to expire at the end of January, for AMI water meter program management and implementation.
Their original contract, which they entered on Aug. 12, 2019, was for $2,221,216. They were the lowest bidder.
The funding will be disbursed by the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) grant through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
Acting Chief Financial Officer Amanda Trujillo explained at the council meeting Monday night that the company’s work got delayed due to COVID-19, as they were shut down for two to three months, and residents seemed weary of interacting with the company for service during the pandemic.
“Once we were able to start back up, the reception was very lukewarm,” Trujillo said.
Ben Machiney from Vanguard said the bulk of the nonresponsive people were from when COVID-19 first hit.
Councilman Herbert Winfrey said there were senior citizens in his ward who want to get their meters changed but are “just afraid.”
Machiney said the workers would all be wearing masks and personal protective equipment as well as social distancing.
Trujillo said she got her meter replaced more than a year ago, and that it only took around twenty minutes, and she did not need to be standing near them while they replaced it.
Response has been increasing over the last few weeks, Machiney said.
“I think towards the end of the year, the residents did start calling in, our numbers started doubling,” he said. “But we were already at the end of the project, all of the notifications have been done.”
This change order, he said, will allow them to notify residents again and give them another opportunity to respond.
“We are starting to see an attitude change towards the end here…so I think if we give it another go, maybe start from the beginning and start fresh, we could get a better response and maybe knock that number down by, hopefully, 70 percent,” Machiney said.
So far, Vanguard has completed almost 16,000 water meter replacements.