Council OK’d ordinance for installation; Melfi wants to wait until 2015
By Danny restivo
Legislation to install new water meters throughout the city is on its way to approval, but it likely will have to overcome a mayoral veto.
With one member absent, council passed an ordinance for the installation of radio-frequency water meters during a special meeting Wednesday night at the Girard Justice Center.
Council members approved the $1.53 million purchase price for the meters with a 5-to-1 vote, but Mayor James Melfi said he will veto the legislation once it reaches his desk.
“I just don’t think we should be doing something like this six months out from fiscal emergency,” Melfi said. “We just finally got some breathing room.”
The mayor believes the city should wait until the Girard Lakes are paid off before the city purchases new meters.
He said the city pays $242,000 a year for the lakes, and council should hold off on the meter purchase until the total debt is paid off in 2015.
Councilman Larry Steiner, D-2nd, cast the only dissenting vote. He shared the mayor’s financial cautions with a belief that residents may carry the burden if the meters don’t meet expectations.
“I said from Day One that the cost might be passed on to the residents,” he said. “I can’t vote for that.”
Lou Adovasio, councilman at large and chairman of the utilities commission, intro-duced the legislation. He believes the new meters will allow the city to gather accurate readings while increasing revenue from water usage.
Currently, the city’s residential water meters are inside homes and must be read manually by city employees. When a resident isn’t home, the water department relies on the homeowner to provide a reading that is either mailed in or called in.
When residents don’t give a two-month report of their meter, the city estimates the cost based on previous usage.
Adovasio said the new meters will pay for themselves by offering accurate readings instead of relying on the customers. He believes remote meters will create less hassle for residents and the city.
“It is something that needs to be done,” he said.
In October, council asked for bids on the new water-meter project. Cincinnati-based Neptune Equipment Co., which specializes in water-utility monitoring, offered the lowest bid. Adovasio said Neptune could install the meters within six to nine months.
After the vote, Melfi made it clear he would not raise water rates if the meters cost more than anticipated.
“If council thinks I will raise water rates for their mistake, they are wrong,” he said.
Water rates are controlled by the city service director, while council controls the sewer rates, the mayor said.
Melfi has 10 days to veto the ordinance. After his decision, council must wait 10 days before it can meet and override his veto. Lawmakers can do so with five of seven votes.
Council must approve the decision by Jan. 13 or the water-meter bid from Neptune will expire.