City Continues To Find Water Thieves
So far, employees found about 25 households stealing water from the city of Summerville, according to City Manager Janice Galloway.
The discovery came during a system-wide inspection of both gas and water meters.
City officials ordered the utility department to perform the manual inspection and read each meter. That’s more than 4,000 water meters, according to the city manager.
Last Thursday city employee Jeremy Jackson found someone stealing water from 139 Hammond Drive, according to a Summerville Police report.
He showed Policeman David Westbrooks where a lock was removed. It was locked more than two years ago. But somewhere between August 2016 and last week, someone removed the lock and used more than 60,000 gallons of water, according to reports.
“The dollar amount was calculated to be $245.17, not counting additional fees for breaking the lock and meter which will have to be replaced,” Westbrooks reported.
The owner of the residence was not present when the officer investigated the crime. However, Shawn Hawkins, 46, was living in the residence, Westbrooks said.
“Hawkins stated that he had lived at the residence for approximately three or four years and that [the homeowner] had been living at the residence with his cousin. He had not tried to have the water turned on in his name when [the homeowner] moved out thinking that the water was still in her name and being paid for by Mrs. Jackson,” Officer Westbrooks stated.
Hawkins was cited for diversion of services, according to an incident report.
The decision to manually read the entire utility system was prompted by problems with the city’s natural gas meters.
The city’s new automatic meters that are read by a computer is causing inaccurate readings for 150-240 gas customers a month, according to city officials.
The city purchased an automated system three years ago that records water and gas usage. The new system purchased from Badger Meters Inc., of Milwaukee, Wis., was supposed to eliminate employees from manually reading each meter.
But something has malfunctioned with the 4,081 natural gas meters in Chattooga and Floyd counties. Each month up to 240 meters will malfunction. The malfunctioning meters will show customers using no natural gas for that month, according to to city officials.
Plus, the problem isn’t with the same meters each month. The software glitch might affect a different batch of customers than the month prior.
The city contacted Badger Meters and they’ve sent technical support people several times. Badger has been unable to correct that problem, according to the city manager.
While workers checked the gas meters, they also inspected the water meters as well. It’s during this manual inspection that meter readers found problems. They are halfway through their manual inspection and they found 20-25 theft of services cases and other problems.
Once a customer’s meter is locked, it’s not supposed to be turned back on until the bill is paid. However, some people will unlock the meter and steal water. Since the city’s software isn’t catching the water usage, it is going unnoticed until the system is manually inspected.
The city manager is now recommending that utility workers physically read each meter every so often. He is suggesting every three months.