It’s been a long time coming, but the City of Magnolia water meter project is nearly complete.

Fiske International Group President Babatunde Abioye and representative Jean Jones told aldermen about the progress they’ve made on updating the city’s outdated water meters on Tuesday night.

Jones said the project is nearing completion, with only about 10 to 15 water meters remaining to be installed. The original date of completion was estimated to be last July, but now the company is expected to be finished by the end of March.

During the meeting, aldermen paid a $107,250 installment to Fiske International for the project.

She said there were a number of complicating factors that caused delay, some out of their control, but that the company is on-track to be finished about two months from now.

The process for identifying water meters and then replacing them isn’t as simple as it might seem. Jones said there are a number of specific steps their company takes in installing each unit.

First, workers identify an old water meter on a given property and demolish the existing infrastructure in the immediate area where the new meter will be installed. Then, Fiske will procure a new meter and begin its installation.

Jones said they then shift their focus to providing the city assistance in the integration of billing systems and that their work comes with a 12-month warranty after installation.

Jones said the company met with the Magnolia officials in December 2018 and requested a list of customers and then began the process of conducting residential and commercial surveys.

She said the list included 2,100 accounts, some active but many inactive that to remain on the rolls for one reason or another. 853 of those accounts are active.

Jones said that throughout their work, the firm ran into a number of issues. She said some meter boxes were broken and some meters were broken as well, some vacant houses were using water and discrepancies in the database made everything a bit more difficult to properly account for.

“It’s pretty hard to keep track of all the moving pieces in that database,” she said.

That is due in part to confusion that arises when a given residence is subdivided but still runs on only one water meter, or countless other situations that may pop up. Jones said in a few cases, property owners have not consented to the company installing the new meters and that they will need an escort.

Mayor Anthony Witherspoon said all city water service requires the use of the uniform system and that the board will send notices to property owners who aren’t allowing Fiske International access to water meter installation sites.

Jones cited several delays regarding large commercial equipment. She said Fiske International needs to schedule their work around the availability of large commercial equipment, and that an order in May was delayed until July and fulfilled in late November.

In other business, aldermen:

• Paid $70,703 to Scarbrough Construction for work performed on the farmers market pavilion and discussed the installation of a sloped concrete slab on the south side of the facility to be used as a loading bay.

• Accepted bids on surplus town equipment, including $1,692 from Lynn’s Enterprise LLC for a 2000 Chevrolet C-7500; $3,681 from Calvin McMorris for a 6610 New Holland tractor, $4,375 for a 580 Super Case backhoe and $647 for a 1994 Chevrolet GC3; and $218 from Abbygail Durham for a 2003 Ford F-150.

• Hired KeyAnna L. Martin as a part-time police officer.

• Approved travel for the board and city clerk to attend the Mississippi Municipal League 89th Annual Conference in Biloxi in June.

• Approved travel plus lodging, per-diem and mileage for Assistant Police Chief Sonya Woodall, officer James Davis and officer Brent Mullins to attend the National Incident-Based Reporting System training in Pearl in February.

• Created a new budget line item to receive a $14,000 state disbursement pursuant to Mississippi House Bill 1 and the resulting distribution of internet sales tax revenue.

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