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Ironton City Council to discuss water meter project tonight

The Ironton City Council will meet tonight in a special meeting to discuss a $1.4 million project to replace the city’s water meters.

The council heard the first reading of an ordinance to start the loan application process for the project at the last meeting July 22.

The city was recently awarded a forgivable loan from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency of 30 percent of projects up to $7 million. The council has discussed the water meter replacement project as well as a water line replacement project. The water meter project would replace the city’s 4,800 plus water meters with automated meters.

If at least six council members attend the meeting Wednesday, the council could decide to suspend the rules and pass the ordinance in the specially called meeting.

Councilman Dave Frazer said he is concerned that the council would try to pass the ordinance after the second reading. He said he is also concerned that the project will raise residents’ water bills.

“I think we need the water meters but the water bill can’t keep going up,” Frazer said. “There’s people on a fixed income. And it’s going up next year.

“I’d like to see them do something for the people one way or another but I doubt that they will.”

Per a city ordinance passed in February 2009, the water usage rate will be raised from $5 for each thousand gallons to $5.30 per thousands of gallons.

Mayor Rich Blankenship said the city has been researching the project for over a year.

“We’ve put in a lot of work up to this point to bring it before council,” Blankenship said. “Anytime you get grant money to do this, it’s worth looking into.”

If the ordinance passes, the city will then have to work with the OEPA to assure the agency that it has the money to pay back the loan, Blankenship said. The loan would be paid back from funds from the water, sewage and storm water fees over thirty years with 2 percent interest. The project will then have to be approved again by city council.

The mayor said he is in favor of the water meter project.

“I have five water distribution employees and one week of the month I have to send them out to read meters which takes them away from other projects like fixing water leaks,” Blankenship said. The new automated meters would be read electronically.

“That will free up three months a year that our guys can actually do the work they need to do,” Blankenship said. “Nine times out of 10 during that week (when employees are reading meters) they have to be pulled off the project to fix a water leak and then we have to estimate the water bills.”

The Ironton City Council Finance Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. The special meeting will be immediately after the finance committee meeting at 6 p.m. at the Ironton City Center.