By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Cleveland filed a lawsuit in 2018 against the companies that installed and initiate the water meters and water meter readings system.
The suit is against Siemens Industry, Inc., Mueller Systems, LLC and 10 unnamed individuals.
In 2011, city officials began meeting with Chris McNeil, a representative from Siemens, and over the course of the next two years, Siemens was contracted to upgrade meter system.
However officials believe Siemens did not live up to its end of the bargain.
The lawsuit mentions the visits from McNeil, visits that “were intended to convince the City that the water meter system Siemens proposed to install in the City would not only save the City money, but it would be so efficient that it would result in the system paying for itself over time because of a significant increase in accurate metering of water consumed by citizens of the City as well as fewer employees assigned to the reading of meters.”
The lawsuit said Cleveland, through claims and materials, was guaranteed meter accuracy of 98.5 percent.
The city was looking for ways to improve the water meter reading system and authorized Siemens to perform an evaluation of Cleveland’s existing measurement infrastructure.
The Bolivar Commercial reported on McNeil’s visit to the board in February 2012 where he claimed the study demonstrated older, inaccurate meters could be costing Cleveland $200,000 per year in revenue.
McNeil assured the board that the city could expect a net increase of $620,000 a year and that if the revenues didn’t match what the study promised, Siemens would cover the difference.
The lawsuit said the city entered into a performance agreement with Siemens on or about May 30, 2012, and The Bolivar Commercial reported installation of new meters began in November of that year.
The lawsuit describes the metering system installed by Siemens as “a miserable failure” and that “All of the representations, warranties and guarantees by Siemens in the Agreement have been breached, and continue to be breached with no resolution in sight.”
The lawsuit said the city contracted with Mueller Systems, LLC to furnish the equipment installed by Siemens, and said the equipment “is and was at the time of purchase, defective and has not provided the benefits to the City by way of savings as guaranteed and represented by Siemens.”
The system involved water meters reporting signals to repeaters which would be relayed to a central point, allowing the city to collect water meter data and bill customers.
The city alleged that reporting accuracy dropped to below 50 percent and that over 50 percent of the installed meters were not reporting at all, forcing the city to send customers the minimum bill for water usage.
The city alleges that two water rate usage increases have not made up the difference and that at the time of filing approximately $60,000 was being lost each month for a cumulative total of $1.5 million.
The lawsuit said Siemens and Mueller were informed on numerous occasions of the issues but did not investigate.
The city accused Siemens and Mueller of fraud and negligence, claiming both parties knew of the faulty equipment but chose to market it as functional, resulting in ongoing damages.
The lawsuit said the city is looking to cover the cost of damages as well as the cost of once again replacing the water metering system, along with court costs.
In an official response filed at the Bolivar County Courthouse in Cleveland on Oct. 9, 2019, Siemens denied all allegations and asked for the suit to be dismissed.
The lawsuit is active, but it is currently unknown where things stand between both parties.
Cleveland is not the only city in the region to sue Siemens. McComb, Jackson and Monticello, AR, have also sued the company.
The Bolivar Commercial has received several complaints from Cleveland residents recently about water bills that have spiked.
The city recently approved a 15 percent hike in the water usage rate that went in effect last week.
The Bolivar Commercial will have more on this as it develops.