- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A week after the city of Jackson halted the installation of new water meters because some faulty meters were found leaders are discussing possible legal action against the contractor.

The Siemens contract was approved by the city council and signed by Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. in 2012. Siemens was to install new water meters across the city, implement a new billing system and improve existing sewer infrastructure in the city.

Public Works Director Kishia Powell said Siemens installing at least seven meters that were calibrated to read usage by gallon instead of the city’s standard cubic feet calibration, causing bills to jump by “as much as 648 percent.”

Siemens is now inspecting each meter already installed to ensure the correct meters are installed.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/17ume4I) city council members are now questioning whether the $90 million contract was a wise decision. Some members are suggesting the city terminate the contract and take legal action to get back come of the $70 million already paid Siemens.

Powell has said it is too early to know how many residents were overcharged or how much the city has lost because of the faulty meter installations, but she did say that officials are compiling research and data to better determine the scope of the damage.

“We’re going to fight like hell to make sure they get the compensation they’re supposed to have,” Mayor Tony Yarber said in reference to residents who might have been overcharged. “And we’re going to do it as methodically and strategically as we possibly can.”

Officials said Wednesday the majority of the $70 million already spent went toward the improvements made on the city’s sewer infrastructure - the majority of which has already been completed and signed off on by city officials.

Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said while the move to issue the stop work order was effective, the city might not have the leverage it once did because the majority of the contract has already been paid by the city.

“The bottom line is that they’re holding $70 million of our dollars and we’re in an absolute mess,” she said. “I’m very pleased with stop work order, but we’ve lost incentive with this company having paid them $70 million and they have not even begun to get this right. We did lose the incentive.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com


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