By Chelsea Stevenson

Lexington City Council decided Thursday night to resume citywide installation of new water meters after flooding in homes brought a halt to the project last week.

But installations for the remaining 900 to 1,000 residences will be—at least for the next eight months—without the backflow-prevention device that is causing pipes in residences to spring leaks from unaccustomed pressure.

In a special meeting, the council approved City Manager Jon Ellestad’s proposal to continue the installation process without the devices.

Eight months from now, the backup-prevention valves will be installed in the remaining residences. These devices keep water from returning to the city pipes after it flows into a house. The problem for some of the houses that have already had the meters and devices installed is that pressure within this “closed system” can build when the water expands, for example with a water heater.

When the devices are installed, the meters will also be changed from a touch screen system to a wireless system.

The council has not decided how it will handle the problems that several residents with the new water meters have experienced in recent weeks, some of whom spoke at the meeting. Council members have asked Ellestad to research four options that were discussed:

  • A no-interest loan for costs that residents have incurred by installing an expansion tank or pressure valve as recommended by the city to avoid the plumbing problems caused by this project.
  • A flat grant of approximately $150 to all residents as a credit to their water bills.
  • Variable payments to residents who have experienced water meter problems, taking into consideration income or disability in the manner of means-tested government support.
  • A window of time for residents with the backflow-prevention valve to place themselves on a city list to have that valve removed until such devices can be safely installed.

Council Member Charles “Chuck” Smith said he believes the worst of the city’s problem with this project is behind them now. The council will meet in two weeks to discuss the four options.

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