Meter project needs analysis

Published 10:25 am Friday, July 30, 2010

Almost any discussion of an Ironton water bill gets many residents boiling hot.

City officials continue to debate a water meter replacement project that would make reading meters more efficient but has some concerned over the long-term impact on residents.

The $1.4 million project would replace the meters with electronic versions that could be read much quicker.

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This appears to be a smart investment — on the surface — but merits a little more explanation.

The city hasn’t shared a clear enough plan to convince many taxpayers that this is something that won’t ultimately cost more money and raise the rates of a water bill that is already loaded with fees.

Plus, the argument is that it would free up time for city workers each month. But no one has said exactly how those workers will spend this extra time. Also, with water rates set to increase next year, no one has given any proposal that this change will reduce the rates long-term.

Another concern is the city’s plan to pay back the debt that wouldn’t be covered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s forgivable loan. Current proposals include using revenue from the city’s water, storm water and sewer fees. These enterprise funds are reserved for those particular departments.

It can be argued that this is justifiable because these fees are billed on the water bill and based upon water usage.

Perhaps a bigger concern is if there would be enough additional revenue to cover this new expense.

Improving the water meters may make perfect sense in the long run but so far not enough has been done to present a clear plan that shows residents that they won’t continue footing the bill.