By danny restivo
The mayor is planning to keep an eye on the financing of the city’s new water meters.
Mayor James Melfi said he will ensure citizens’ money is being used efficiently for the $1.5 million investment.
“We will know pretty quickly if this is a viable project,” said Melfi.
On Jan. 2, council overrode a mayoral veto and voted 6-1 to install radio-frequency water meters throughout the city. Melfi initially vetoed the legislation, which had been approved by council with a 5-1 vote Dec. 11.
Melfi rejected the project, citing the city’s release from fiscal oversight in June. He pointed to the $242,000 per 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 could be redirected to the water-meter project then.
Currently, the city’s residential water meters are inside homes and must be read 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.
The new meters can send a radio-frequency signal to a laptop that records the meter readings while the city employees drive through a neighborhood.
Lou Adovasio, councilman-at-large and chairman of the utilities commitee, championed the water- meter legislation. He believes the new water meters will create accurate readings, which equates to an increase in revenue.
“It’s something we need to do,” Adovasio said earlier this month. “We’ve been having a lot of problems with reads and nonreads.”
The water-meter legislation has Cincinnati-based Neptune Equipment Co. installing the meters.
Melfi said not all the details of the installation process have not been hammered out with Neptune, but he’s expecting to be present at their meetings with the city’s service director. He also plans on attending council meetings for regular updates from the city’s finance committee. If the numbers don’t match up, Melfi said he will “take any legal remedy to ensure that it does,”
“If this does not produce the revenue they think it can, they are going to drive the revenue in the red,” said Melfi. “When I’m spending a million-and-a-half [on new meters], I’m going slow.”
The mayor said he had spoken to officials from three municipalities who purchased the water meters. He said two of those communities did not create additional revenue from the meters. Melfi said water customers will not have to pay an installation fee to the city but may see an increase in rates because of the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, Girard’s source of water, could increase its rates.
Melfi said he will not raise the water rates to cover any financial mishaps from the new meters.