Siemens Rep: Water Billing Glitches Result of Backed-up 'TO-DOs' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Siemens Rep: Water Billing Glitches Result of Backed-up 'TO-DOs'

Siemens representative Frank D. Gagliardi presented an update to the Jackson City Council on the $90 million contract, focusing on issues with the new billing system.

Siemens representative Frank D. Gagliardi presented an update to the Jackson City Council on the $90 million contract, focusing on issues with the new billing system. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— Siemens representative Frank D. Gagliardi spent most of his presentation to the Jackson City Council's Budget Committee Monday scribbling notes in the margins of the paper on the podium before him as council members and City employees let loose their frustrations with the water systems his company implemented.

"It has been poorly done," Ward 6 Councilman Tyrone Hendrix said, "poorly implemented. This is pretty bad."

"We just want it fixed," Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said, "and I wouldn't recommend your company."

Others on the Council wondered about how much of the $90-million contract that the City is still paying for went directly to Siemens. "Are we realizing any savings as a City?" Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps asked.

But the real bulk of the conversation had to do with a peculiar tendency the automated billing system, AMI, has that internally blocks all reads that seem irregular. The blocked bills are then estimated and sent out until a human being resolves the hold, called a "TO-DO."

"The system is doing what it is supposed to do," Gagliardi, the director of operations for building performance and sustainability, said. "The system wants human interaction to say, 'is this OK?'"

It is this "human interaction" that Public Works Director Kishia Powell said takes up a lot of the time her limited staff can handle. In response, Siemens has paid for five new full-time temporary workers to handle the manual adjustments of bills.

Powell estimated that 6,000 of these "TO-DOs" are currently in the system. In order to fix just one, it takes a City employee around 20 minutes to get into the system, adjust the read from the meter and then send out an accurate bill.

But Powell did not think that it would be wise to quit the "TO-DOs" system entirely, "Even though we are not doing the shut-offs," Powell said," I think it will add to the frustration," adding that people would not get bills at all as a result.

Gagliardi also presented an update on the installation of the new meters. Two classes of meters are included under the terms of the Siemens contract: small and large meters.

As for the small meters, designed for residential use, Gagliardi said that out of the 64,414 contracted, 51,586 were installed. Siemens turned over more than 654 of the remaining 12,828 meters to the City for "new City installs in lieu of City purchasing new meters." Another 5,800 of the remaining are tied up currently in pending local agreements with the City of Byram, but Gagliardi said the infrastructure necessary for the installation of these meters would be ready soon. Approximately 6,400 meters are available for installation but will require the City to address issues that have prevented installation to date.

Siemens is currently working on a comparison of various lists to determine what meters the City wants installed. That will be complete in May, Gagliardi said.

As for the 584 large meters, designed for commercial or industrial use, 419 of those have been installed. The same "comparison of various lists" is under way to catch up on the remaining 165 meters.

One bright shining piece of news for the public is that Siemens' promised Customer Self-Service Portal is functional—"but not yet available to the general public," yet. The anticipated release date, Gagliardi said, is in June.

Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at [email protected] and follow him @tims_alive on Twitter. See more city news at

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