Cracks in system as meter repairs delayed

If the secretary of a ratepayers’ association can’t get the ward councillor to help him resolve what is a relatively uncomplicated matter what hope is there for the rest of us.

Ephraim Stanfield wrote to Ward 43 councillor Elton Jansen, also chairperson of Sub-council 23, on November 3, last year, to remind him about the broken water meter covers in Bayview that he raised on several occasions as a member of the ward committee.

“The water meters are in the middle of the pavements and most of the covers are broken,” he wrote.

“My daughter, Megan Letsoalo, who lives in Bayview, submitted several complaints to the municipality to fix the meter cover. They tried to do so on several occasions. However, due to poor workmanship the drain cover stayed broken. The workers said the old covers were no longer in stock but they would report back to her,” Mr Stanfield said. They didn’t.

“At 10.15pm on November 3, my daughter heard noises outside and when she checked, she saw that workers were replacing the water meter. This is unacceptable and I requested that the matter be addressed tomorrow. The meter that was replaced is barely a year old. Do they operate like this in white areas? No. I am going to make this a race issue if it is not resolved tomorrow morning and take the matter to the Public Protector,” Mr Stanfield said (“Council’s excuses don’t wash, say residents”, Off My Trolley, March 13/14).

But there was no reaction until Mr Stanfield’s daughter sent him an email on March 15 (2019): “At 7.10pm, a white van (CA114 790) came to our property explaining that they are here to inspect the water meter. When I asked them to wait as my father wanted to talk to them, they said they couldn’t. They told me they were inspecting the water meter which they do every seven days. Ever since the meter was put in last year this is the first time they have inspected it. I am a stay-at-home mom so I would know if they were here. They informed us that we are on 350 litres per day and that we have only x-amount of water until the next morning. They informed us that they only inspect the property if a call was logged, which we did. They connected the diagnostic device to the meter.”

Mr Stanfield sent a record of correspondence since November (2018), which was a lot, to Mr Jansen, including that his daughter’s water has been restricted to 350 litres a day which should never have happened, neither should the meter have been replaced.

It was then that Mr Jansen asked his support staff to set up a meeting with Mr Stanfield. It is not clear if the meeting ever happened. But Sub-council manager Raphael Martin replied to Mr Jansen who copied it to Mr Stanfield.

Mr Martin said the standby teams work until 10pm, depending on the workload; they would have run a profile to check if the meter was in order: the laptop and meter could not communicate indicating a problem with the meter and if they could not set it right, the meter would be replaced; the team would have to return and repair the cracking cement; the meter can be changed to free flow, all meters had to be set on 350 litres due to water restrictions at the time; and although the complaint was about a broken meter cover, the City will carry the R4 000 for the new meter if it is a maintenance issue.

However, Mr Stanfield wasn’t happy with the response and asked me to find out what happened.

Mayoral committee member for water and waste, Xanthea Limberg, said according to the contractor the meter box was damaged “and they were not able to connect to the meter using the water management device’s diagnostic programme which indicated that the meter was faulty”.

The customer’s bill showed she was not exceeding her limit and the supply to the property was limited in error, Ms Limberg said.

“It is not unusual for teams to work so late at night and it is not policy to inform residents when they will be arriving as the meters remain the City’s property even after they have been placed into service.”

The revenue department will assess the bill and give clearance for the meter to be set to full flow.

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