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Government & Politics

Cuyahoga Falls Sues, Alleging Botched Water, Electric Meter Programs

photo of Russ Balthis
Cuyahoga Falls Law Director Russ Balthis says the city contracted for more than 20,000 automated electric meters -- and the same number of water meters -- but about a fifth of them aren't providing the usage and billing data they were supposed to.

The City of Cuyahoga Falls is seeking more than $16 million in lost revenue and damages over what it says was a botched plan to install water and electric meters throughout the city.

In 2008, Cuyahoga Falls agreed to a 10-year contract for Johnson Controls to install about 40,000 automated meters throughout the city. The program was supposed to save money by not requiring meter readers. Johnson Controls also said it would pay any shortfalls in the projected savings on a yearly basis.

But Law Director Russ Balthis says nothing has been paid since he took office in 2014. He also says the city has had to hire meter readers and do maintenance because the units were poorly installed and have malfunctioned.

“The city paid $17 million for this system. And was guaranteed a savings of $23 million. We know that big projects like this don’t always go smoothly, but when you have a guarantee, you expect it to be honored.”

Balthis says about a fifth of the meters don’t work properly since many water meters have slowed down over time, failing to give accurate readings. He says the electric meters have worked, but don’t consistently and reliably transmit data to their billing system.