GIRARD - Despite reservations from the mayor, City Council took the first step Monday to purchase and install radio frequency water meters.
Councilman Lou Adovasio, chairman of the utilities committee, said the committee will meet with Safety-Service Director Jerry Lambert to go over financing fees, payments, and installation of the meters.
Lambert estimates installation and conversion to the new system would be about $1.5 million.
Adovasio said three bids were received for the meters, and Neptune Co. was the lowest and best bid. He said the motion should be scheduled for reading by council's next meeting on Dec. 10.
''We have a few concerns and some questions of the language to go over so we will set up a meeting with Neptune,'' he said.
The city has been looking at the remote water meters as a way to save money through increased efficiency and accuracy.
Currently, city workers have to enter homes to read customers' water meters. If the customer is not home, they can mail in or call in their water usage. If after two months the water department has not received a reading, they bill according to past usage.
If installed, the remote meters would allow a single worker to read every meter without entering residents' homes.
Adovasio said the new meters will help to offset the 20 percent water revenue loss the city has seen. He said it was recommended by a 2006 state audit when the city was facing fiscal emergency.
The move didn't sit well with Mayor Jim Melfi, who wants to wait until the city pays off its purchase of the Girard Lakes property.
''I want to see this done in three years when the city has paid off the Girard Lake purchase,'' he said which will free up $242,000 annually.
Melfi added that he is not against the new system, but that he is concerned what might happen if the system doesn't produce the projected savings.
''To pay for the meters the city would have to raise water rates significantly. I am not willing to do that at this time when in just 36 short months we are in a position of strength. Most people do not buy a new car until the old one is paid off,'' he said.
He said if the savings are not there as projected, at least in 36 months the city will be able to pay for the meters with funds set aside on a regular basis from paying off the lakes.