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Water meter project takes a step forward

With a 4-3 vote Thursday night, the Ironton City Council narrowly passed an ordinance to start the loan process on a $1.4 million water meter replacement project.

The project would replace the city’s water meters with electronic meters. The city was recently awarded a forgivable loan of 30 percent for projects up to $7 million.

The other 70 percent of the project would be paid back with funds generated from the storm water, water and sewage fees over the next 30 years with 2 percent interest.

Councilmen Bob Cleary and Dave Frazer along with Councilwoman Beth Rist voted against the measure.

“I know it was a very close vote, but we’ve been discussing this for over a year,” Mayor Rich Blankenship said after the meeting. “I certainly don’t understand the three ‘no’ votes. They didn’t state their reasons why. I would like to know the reasons why.”

Blankenship went on to say the project would benefit the residents of Ironton. The mayor has said in past meetings that the new automatic meters would allow water distribution workers more time to fix leaks because they would not have to spend much time reading meters.

“I don’t know if they voted no because they want to see the cones in the road or what,” Blankenship said.

Rist said the city does not need new meters.

“In my opinion, I don’t think this municipality would need that,” Rist said, adding that she did not know Cleary’s or Frazer’s reasoning.

Rist said she disagrees with the idea that the new meters would cut down on error. Computers can have software problems, she said.

“I can understand the convenience of it, I just don’t agree.”

Frazer said he wants to know what the city plans to do with the money it says it will save when the project is complete.

“I’m still waiting on them to tell us what we’re going to do with the excess money,” Frazer said after the meeting. “Whether they’ll take down the water bills and what to do with the savings. The water bill keeps going up.”

Cleary said more questions needed to be answered before he can support the project.

For instance, how much water is the system losing each month and how much is given away to municipal buildings. He also questioned whether the city planned to lay off workers in the water distribution department that formerly would have been reading meters.

Cleary added that nearly every city in the Tri-State area is in financial trouble.

“The way we’re spending money it looks like we’re rolling in it, and the last thing I want to do is come back to the citizens of Ironton and raise the municipal fee because we can’t afford it,” he said.

At the request of Finance Director Kristen Martin, council tabled an ordinance to start the loan process on a water line replacement project that would be paid for in the same way as the water meter replacement project. Martin instead suggested the ordinance go back to the public utilities committee and then back to the finance committee so that the specific cost and scope of the project can be determined.

In other business, the Ironton City Council also:

Voted down an ordinance to establish the intersection at South Seventh Street and Park Avenue as a three-way flashing red light stop.

Councilmen Cleary, Frazer, Mike Lutz and Councilwoman Rist voted against the measure, while Councilman Frank Murphy, Kevin Waldo and Chuck O’Leary voted yes to the ordinance.

Heard from Police Chief Jim Carey who clarified statements he previously made to The Tribune about Rally on the River.

The department made several arrests including public intoxication, driving under the influence, and drug charges that were not all associated with the event.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol, which handled traffic patrol during the event, made 400 stops, five driving under the influence charges and 20 arrests.

Carey said that though there were 20 to 30 altercations, there were only three actual fights. The altercations, he explained, were minor and officers broke them up before they turned into fights.

Carey said he was impressed that many of the people who were drinking alcohol at the event had sober people with them to take care of them and to drive them home.

“I think the Friends of Ironton did a good job, I think the officers did a great job,” Carey said. “Overall I think that the event went well.”