Tomball City Council approves purchase of water, gas meters in anticipation of growth

Tomball City Council approved the purchase of additional water and gas meters and its Jan. 3 meeting. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tomball City Council approved the purchase of additional water and gas meters and its Jan. 3 meeting. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

Tomball City Council approved the purchase of additional water and gas meters and its Jan. 3 meeting. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

Tomball City Council approved two agenda items at its Jan. 3 meeting to purchase additional water and gas meters and transmitters in anticipation of growth projected for 2022. In total, the new meters and transmitters will cost the city more than $783,000.

Public Works Director Beth Jones said the city had originally budgeted funds for meters to cover about 300 new homes this year, but the city is now projecting about 1,300 new homes to be constructed.

“We saw some of this on the horizon. We didn’t see all of this on the horizon,” Jones said.

Jones said city staff recommended purchasing all of the new meters and transmitters at once at the beginning of the year, as opposed to incrementally throughout the year, due to supply chain issues causing up to 52-week delays.

Both agenda items were passed unanimously. Council Members Derek Townsend and John Ford were both absent from the Jan 3. meeting.


Jones also presented an agenda item to replace the entirety of the city’s existing water meters and transmitters, which would cost the city more than $1.7 million. Jones said the city would use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, a $350 billion federal COVID-19 relief fund, to replace the infrastructure.

Tomball will receive a total of $2.92 million from the ARPA, half of which the city has already received, City Manager David Esquivel said at the meeting. The city will receive the other half of the funds this year, Esquivel said.

Jones said the replacements are necessary because of recent failures with the water system and the expected growth. Jones said there are 1,200 meters that need to be read manually in the city with 100 more meters failing a month.

If the pace stays the same, Jones said about half of Tomball’s water meters would need to be manually read by the end of the year, placing more stress on the public works department.

“We had budgeted and projected for some replacement but not at this rate,” Jones said. “It’s those pieces together that’s putting a stress on our public works crews and infrastructure.”

Council Member Chad Degges said he would vote against the purchase. Degges said the city needs to evaluate its needs holistically before spending its ARPA funds on water infrastructure.

Council Member Mark Stoll disagreed, saying if the city needs to replace its water meters, it should get in the queue now so supply chain issues do not affect the purchase.

“If we don’t get these things, what’s going to happen is we’re either going to stop new growth, or people who are current residents [will] have a meter failure, and we’re not going to be able to replace it,” Stoll said.

City Council decided to table the item so it can be discussed at a future meeting.
By Chandler France

Reporter, Tomball/Magnolia

Chandler joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in June 2021 after graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Southern California, where he was the executive editor of Annenberg Media. He previously interned with the company in Gilbert, AZ and with the Beacon Project, an investigative reporting team in Los Angeles. Chandler is originally from Laguna Hills, CA.