DeKalb’s ‘New Day Project’ to replace 102,000 water meters

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Beginning in April, DeKalb County will launch a three-year program to replace 102,000 aging and potentially defective water meters, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced. The upgrade will impact a little more than half of DeKalb County’s 194,000 residential water customers.

 “DeKalb County has worked tirelessly to address the long-festering problems in our water and sewer billing and meter reading processes,” said Thurmond. “From this initiative, water customers can expect accurate billing and meter reading, increased customer service and restored trust.”

An estimated 54,500 meters are out-of-lifecycle and 47,500 meters have potential defects. In August 2018, the county negotiated a product liability claim with the manufacturer of the potentially defective meters resulting in an approximately $8.64 million settlement in equipment, installation and reprogramming services.

The Water Meter Exchange and Upgrade Initiative will be implemented over the next three years, beginning in April 2019 with 30,000 meters scheduled for replacement. The new meters are equipped with technology to transmit consumption data, eliminating the need for manual reading.

A robust communications strategy will ensure that all affected customers are contacted at least five times during the water meter replacement process. Customer communications include billing inserts, the county website, Nextdoor and other social media, news media, the weekly county newsletter, DCTV and yard signs where meters are being replaced.

Additionally, water customers receiving a new meter will be notified with door hangers on their residences. Upon completion, another door hanger will notify them of the successful installation. Specially trained and identifiable work crews will install the new meters.

All DeKalb County residential water customers will receive a letter from CEO Thurmond announcing the initiative and results to date of the New Day Project.

The first phase of the New Day Project resulted in approximately 37,000 held water bills being released and all water customers returning to a normal billing cycle. Investments were made in call center and field service staffing that reduced average customer wait times. An independent verification process was implemented to ensure accuracy and reduce inaccurate bills. This resulted in a reduction of disputed bills from more than 4,000 to a few hundred. A new state-of-the-art water billing system is being installed.

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