Girard mayor, council clash over water meters
By danny restivo
Mayor James Melfi said he questions new legislation to install remote water meters throughout the city.
Melfi believes a city council proposal to install $1.5 million in water meters doesn’t make financial sense now.
“Remote water meters are where we want to be, but the timing is off,” he said.
He cites the city’s release from fiscal oversight in June, and the $242,000 a year the city must pay for the Girard Lakes. Girard purchased the lakes in 1995, and will have doled out $4.9 million by the time they are paid off in 2015. Melfi, who was elected five years after the lakes’ purchase, believes the money going toward the lakes can be redirected toward the water-meter project then.
Lou Adovasio, councilman at-large and chairman of the utilities commission, believes the city can finance the project now and can defer the payments to 2015 when the lakes are paid off. He said he thinks the new water meters will pay for themselves, because the current methods aren’t gathering accurate readings.
“It’s something that needs to be done,” said Adovasio. “We’re having a lot of problems with reads and non-reads.”
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.
The remote water meters would allow city workers to access the water readings on a laptop computer without entering the home.
Larry Steiner, 2nd Ward councilman, said he supports the new meters and believes the rest of council will support the initiative because the meters will generate revenue based on accurate readings.
“We lose a lot of dollars because of the inaccuracies in the meters,” he said. “These meters will pay for themselves.”
Melfi said 2011 was the first time the city had a positive balance in the general fund since 1998. The city now has a $650,352 balance in the general fund. Melfi isn’t sure if he’s willing to risk financial stability for a project that hasn’t provided evidence of savings.
“I just can’t go on someone else’s word,” said Melfi. He plans on looking at other municipalities with the same issues as Girard.
In October, the council approved an advertisement for bids on the new water meter project. The mayor said the Cincinnati based Neptune Equipment Co., which specializes in water utility monitoring, offered the lowest bid.
At their meeting today, council members plan to vote on the new meters. If an ordinance to install the meters passes, it will go directly to the mayor for approval. If the mayor vetoes the ordinance, council will need 5 out of 7 votes to override his decision.
City council will meet at 7 p.m. today on the second floor of the city justice center.