Wellston moving forward with purchase of new water meter-reading system
By Phillip Buffington
Members of Wellston City Council conducted a first reading of an ordinance that, if passed, would authorize the mayor and/or service director to enter into a loan agreement for the purchase of a FlexNet Water Distribution Data Communication Network.
Ordinance 2018-35 would allow the city to execute a loan in the amount of $440,023 through Peoples Bank in order to purchase the new water meter-reading system from C.I. Thornburg, Inc. Finance Committee Chair Councilman Nick Rupert II spoke a bit more about the process during the Thursday night, Sept. 20 meeting.
If all necessary legislation is approved and the city does install the new water distribution network, Rupert said all of the city’s approximately 2,200 homes will have a working water meter. The money necessary to replace all of the city’s currently dead water meters is built into the price of financing and purchasing the new system. The rest of the city’s working meters will simply be programmed to work with the new system.
With regard to cost, Rupert further stated that city water customers will not see any increases in utility rates outside of what is already set for the base rate increase as per the city’s Ohio Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) water rate study. In fact, Councilman Charlie Hudson added that implementing a new water meter-reading system was one of the first things the RCAP study actually suggested the city do to decrease water loss.
The RCAP study recommended the city implement a phased $8 per customer monthly water availability charge for all active water taps. It likewise recommended the city implement a phased $13.79 per customer monthly charge for sewer usage. These rates were set to be phased in over the course of four years, which council approved near the start of 2017. So, what began as a base rate of $5.50 beginning Feb. 5, 2017 became $11 in 2018 ($4 for water and $7 for sewer), will become $16.50 in 2019 ($6 for water and $10.50 for sewer), and so on. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, and on the first day of the year thereafter, water and sewer rates will be increased by an inflationary rate of 2.75 percent unless otherwise modified by council.
The study further states these base rates needed to be put into place in order to “generate the revenues necessary to satisfy low interest loan and grant funding agencies and the State Auditor.” This was one of the steps taken to get the city out of Fiscal Emergency status, which it eventually did.
Rupert noted during the Sept. 20 meeting that a first reading was being conducted because the Finance Committee voted unanimously to have three full readings rather than adopt the legislation in emergency fashion. However, as the current price of the new system has been locked in place for around six months, Rupert said if the price cannot be held any longer, council may want to circumvent the three-reading process to ensure a lower price.
Service Director Bill Shumate wished to remind everyone that the money from this loan, if approved, cannot be used for street repairs or any other purpose than to purchase the new FlexNet system.
Rupert and fellow Finance Committee members Councilmen Tom Clark and Hudson also wished to give thanks to Councilwoman Taylor Rose for her assistance in assuring this loan option was the best option for the city. The loan is for 10 years with an interest rate of 4.07 percent.