The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is making great strides in its metering project, with 91 percent of customers now with running water meters.
CUC has been plagued with defective water meters and substandard meter installation. The root problem going back many years is a combination of poor field documentation, third-party meter installations, failed meter performance, and slow replacement of failed meters.
CUC deputy executive director Alan Fletcher told Saipan Tribune yesterday that the agency made great progress last year in replacing failed meters as well as the documentation and/or installation of unregistered meters and accounts.
CUC records show that in August 2010, the agency had a total of 6,411 accounts to resolve. These included 2,550 smart meters that failed; 260 old meters that needed to be replaced; and 3,601 unmetered/unregistered accounts to reconcile.
As of Nov. 25, 2011, CUC only had 831 unresolved accounts, which means that a total of 5,580 cases have been resolved. Only 389 failed meters remain pending, 224 old meters that still need to be replaced, and only 406 unmetered/unregistered accounts need to be reconciled.
According to Fletcher, there were a total of 13,050 system meters as of August 2010. This figure dropped to 9,194 as of Nov. 25, 2011—a decline of 3,856 meters.
“The reason for the drop is twofold. First, due to the number of meters installed by a third-party contractor circa 2004-2005, whereas multifamily buildings were outfitted with a number of water meters equal to the number of electrical meters. Typically, only one water service was used for these buildings, leaving a number of meters in the customer database that were not actually in use and listed as unregistered accounts. Second, is a drop in customer billings due to closed businesses and residential move-outs resulting from the depressed economy,” Fletcher explained.
Fletcher said that there has also been a similar reduction in the sewer accounts, from 2,787 to 2,532—a decline of 255 accounts or a 9.2-percent drop in one year.
This drop in metered accounts has placed continued financial pressure on CUC, Fletcher said, both in reduced revenue from move-outs and the drop in the monthly fixed charges.
CUC has a pending rate hike petition for water and wastewater with the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission, which will decide on the matter next month.