By DANNY RESTIVO
City council voted to override a mayoral veto during a special meeting Wednesday night.
Council voted 6-1 to install remote radio- frequency water meters throughout the city, after Mayor Jim Melfi vetoed legislation approved Dec. 11 by a 5-1 vote.
Council needed 5 of 7 votes to override the mayor’s veto.
Melfi vetoed the $1.53 million investment, citing the city’s release from fiscal oversight in June. He pointed to the $242,000 a year the city must pay for 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.
Councilman Larry Steiner, D-2nd, cast the only dissenting vote, siding with the mayor’s reasoning.
“I think the meters are needed, but I see a tax increase for them,” he said.
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.
Councilman Frank Migliozzi, D-1st, who is finance committee chairman, was not present for the Dec. 11 vote. He said the city’s finances are in order, and residents will not see a tax hike from the new meters.
“We won’t be estimating anymore so we can get an accurate reading from homes,” said Migliozzi. “We’ve looked at other cities who have done the same thing, and they were collecting more without raising rates.”
Migliozzi said funding will come from the city’s water and sewer funds. He said council controls sewer rates, while the mayor controls water rates.
Melfi has stated that he will not raise water rates if the water meters are more expensive than anticipated.