GIRARD - A measure to purchase and install radio frequency water meters was approved during a special City Council meeting on Wednesday, despite a likely veto by Mayor James Melfi.
In the third and final reading of the legislation, council agreed an estimated $1.53 million contract with Neptune Equipment by a 5-1 vote. Installation of the new meters in residences would enable city workers to take readings remotely from outside of homes.
Melfi did not hide his plans regarding his promised veto.
"My opinion has not changed and I'm very disappointed in my fellow elected officials," Melfi said in a phone interview Wednesday night. "I will veto this measure."
"It just makes no sense to do this now. The reason we went into fiscal emergency was because of large purchases like the $2.5 million on the Lakes and $5.3 million on the Justice Center,'' Melfi said. ''Those decisions buried us for well over a decade. Finally, when we are getting out of it, here we go again."
Melfi has 10 days from today to veto the legislation, which would send the ordinance back to the council. The measure would then have 10 days to get five of seven votes to override Melfi's veto.
The Neptune contract will expire if no decision is made before Jan. 13.
The city has been working on this project for more than a decade, according to Councilman Louie Adovasio. The new meters would allow a single worker to read all meters without entering homes.
The older models in use now require meter readers to enter homes, which takes more manpower and creates difficulties in getting inside some houses.
"It (meters) will pay for itself and it will give us much more accurate readings. It will also identify problems sooner,'' Adovasio said.
''This is a process that began back in the 1990s. We've had two consultants and engineering firms, plus the state of Ohio has recommended it,'' he said.
Tests have shown the city suffers a revenue loss of approximately 20 percent due to older meters not designed to register low flow.
"People that have been around know that when you take a shower, you turn the water on as low as you can so the meter registers less," Adovasio said. "These are things that people in the town know.''
Melfi said he supports eventually making the change, but does not think this is the time to take on a large project.
"We are six months removed from fiscal emergency," the mayor said. "The water fund is the weakest of all the utilities. There will be a time when this would make a lot of sense for the city of Girard. Right now is not that time."
The lone dissenting voice on the council, Larry Steiner, agreed with Melfi that 2015 should be the goal for passing water meter legislation, which would give the city ample time to pay off the Girard Lakes property.
"In 2015, the upper and lower lakes are going to be paid off," Steiner said. "That will free up $240,000 a year. Why don't we just wait those two years? I just say not now. It is definitely needed. The water meters we have now, there is a lot of waste. This just isn't the time."
Adovasio defended the council's position, noting there will be new problems down the road.
"By the time you get to 2015, you are not going to have $242,000 to spend on water meters," he said. "We have an 8 percent rate increase every year for the next five or six years with the utilities and we aren't going to want to add to that."
Melfi countered that rate increases to support the current utilities is even more reason not to go through with this measure now.
"We are rushing to spend a million and a half dollars because there are increases by our suppliers? I have to pass those on increases on and we have no choice. But we are rushing into a project because they are going to raise our rates further? That is preposterous," Melfi said. "It just doesn't need to happen. We are doing well financially except the water fund.''