Gautier works to save on water bills and energy costs

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - People in Gautier who are fed up with water bill problems will be glad to know relief is on the way. The city is working to upgrade the water meters. It's part of an effort to improve energy efficiency and eliminate billing errors city-wide.

Gautier resident Paul Watkins said paying expensive water bills is like throwing money down the drain.

"It happened one time we went out of town for a while. We happen to believe the neighbor used our water. We came back and we had a water bill over $1,000," Watkins said.

Public Works Supervisor Jere Shuster said reading the manual meters can be a headache for his team at times.

"You get a misread or the glass is scratched up and people just complain about it and people wonder how we read that. We read them, but sometimes they are wrong," Shuster said.

Gautier is now working to replace more than $7,000 of the aging systems with modern radio-read water meters.

"It is all automatic. They get in a truck and they just drive by and you have a computer that picks up measurements out of the meter. We will get our billing system update a lot quicker. You will have a true reading of the bills," Gautier Mayor Gordon Gollott said.

The Gollott said this upgrade is part of a $3.2 million project to offer more energy savings to the city and its citizens.

"Myself and Samantha Abell, the City Manager, went to Jackson with the MDA to find out how we can change some things in the city. Through MDA, they have a regulated program where you can apply for a loan," Gollott said.

That loan will also help retrofit 952 interior lights in city buildings and some parks.

"That overall program will save the city over the 15 year life of the loan, $827,000 plus, and it will be no cost to the citizens. We expect that once you do this, history tells you that you will get a 14 percent increase in your revenue because of water loss and the reduction of your lighting because you are going to LED lights. With that money, we will be able to pay off that loan at no cost to the citizens," Gollott said.

Watkins said he supports both water and light improvements if the project saves taxpayers money.

"Sure, anything to streamline the system that is the way we have to move these days. It can't be like the good ole' days back in the 80s of just use, use, use," said Watkins.

Construction is set to begin in May. Gollott said the city is working with MDA to secure the loan this month

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.