Killian residents paying flat rate for water bill due to malfunctioning meters

KILLIAN, LA (WAFB) - If you live in Killian, you're basically getting a deal on your water usage. "It was the best thing since sliced bread," said Peter Bock, Interim Mayor of Killian. But the best thing that might have ever happened to this small town is the same thing that's potentially making them lose money: water meters.

Bock says the pipes and dilapidated or unreadable analog water meters were upgraded about seven years ago through a $100,000 gr ant from the Louisiana Government Assistance Program (LGAP). The new meters worked wirelessly, sending water usage data to a mobile vehicle system; gone were the days of meter readers walking into your backyard. "We looked at this as a great system of monitoring how much water was being used and what should be properly billed to the customer," Bock said.

But about three years into using the new system, meters started shutting down. The manufacturing company, Infinity, initially replaced 35 meters, but the issues continued, leading to a complete system failure. "We basically have an unreadable system," Bock said.

If that wasn't added insult to injury, Infinity is now bankrupt, leaving the town with no way to read the water meters. Now, hundreds of customers are being billed at a $26 flat rate, no matter the amount of water used. That flat rate is based on the town's average usage. Resident, Brynn Owings, says her family recently moved from Missouri where her water bill was more than triple what they pay now. "We got our first water bill and it was $25. We were like, we hit the jackpot. We couldn't believe it," she said.

Bock says because the city is unsure how much water is being used, it's hard to tell how much money they're losing. "I don't know how much we're losing in the water itself, in cubic meters. I really don't have a clue. I do know that pump usage and the water going into the tank is steadily climbing and we don't gain that many new customers out here," Bock explained.

The interim mayor says right now, they're consulting with a local engineering firm to bring an accurate reading system back. "Either replace in the ground so we don't have a reinstall or possibly go back to the oldest of the oldest meters that you can get for $60 each, then reinstall them at each one of our 400 locations."

The city plans on having a new water reading system working within the next year.

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