Juan Barragan pulls the cover off of a water meter box and brushes some dirt out of the way on Thursday morning. He asks intern Garrett Wiman to turn off the water supply. He then checks the pipe, puts in the meter and asks Wiman to turn on the water again.
The whole process takes about five minutes. He grabs his tools and moves on to the next yard.
Knife River, a construction company the city hired, has two crews working in the city to eventually install 3,800 meters by November. The work is part of a seven-year plan to install 13,174 water meters and replace 25.4 miles of water pipelines.
The contractor started on June 5, and crews are working their way through the Far West neighborhoods, which tend to be fairly easy installations, Knife River employee Tony Giannecchini said.
Most of the boxes are ready for meters, so it only takes about 10 minutes to put one in. The main issue workers have run into is that some of the meter boxes are too old and need to be replaced. In that case, it can take up to 30 minutes, he said.
If there are any other issues that are more complicated, the crews will pass the house and come back to it later. He said that is the case in about one out of every 50 services.
For example, on Thursday, Giannecchini discussed solutions for a home that had an elevated yard, but the water service was never elevated so it was deep in the ground.
"Our biggest issue is locating boxes that have been hidden with landscaping or structures or walls," he said.
The company leaves notices on the doors letting residents know that their water will be turned off at some point during the next 24 hours, but it usually is never more than 20 minutes, Giannecchini said.
"Most of the time, they don't even know we've been through their neighborhood. We had a woman come out and ask when we were going to install her meter, and we had already finished," he said.
Across town south of Kettleman Lane, another crew is working on a more complicated project.
In a neighborhood off of Elgin Avenue, Knife River employees spent Thursday working on a trench in the middle of the street to replace a water main.
The company will have to use a directional drill machine to connect the houses to the main. The machine can drill horizontally under ground, so it does not disrupt landscaping.
The engineer for the project, RMC Water and Environment, hired interns to inspect the work and document when a meter is installed.
On Thursday, the two companies worked in teams of two — one Knife River employee and one intern. The teams leap-frogged each other quickly installing the meters.
The three interns spent last summer walking Lodi's streets, checking to see what type of work the city had to do at every house.
Brittany Puerta, a student at University of California, Santa Cruz, said she inspects the meter to make sure it meets city standards. She looks to see if the piping is straight, confirms that the meter is at the right depth, and checks that the box is still in good shape and that the meter is stabilized by bricks.
Puerta is majoring in legal studies but was attracted to the job because she is familiar with Lodi.
"I liked walking around Lodi and seeing things I've never noticed before. I'd find houses that are really pretty. I even ran into old friends," she said.
Wiman said he wanted to intern because he originally planned to become an engineer, but then decided to switch career paths and graduated with his emergency medical technician certification. Still, he said it will be good to have on his resume.
He said people have not been complaining as much this time around compared to last summer when he walked neighborhoods.
"People were pretty upset about it last year. I think everyone has calmed down and realized it's going to happen whether they like it or not," he said.