STEUBENVILLE - City Council members agreed Tuesday night to consider legislation that will include a contract with FirstEnergy Solutions for electric power and advertising for proposals for a new water meter system for the city.
City Manager Cathy Davison recommended the two ordinances as part of a water and sewer department strategic financial plan.
"We have been working on a strategic plan for the water and sewer departments to cut costs and increase revenue. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has deregulated the electric rates and we were approached by Buckeye Energy Brokers regarding a contract to purchase energy through FirstEnergy Solutions," said Davison.
"They estimate we will save $74,736 a year for the water department. We are recommending a 12 to 15 month contract. And I am asking for the council to consider this ordinance on an emergency basis so we can lock in the price as soon as possible," Davison told council.
Davison also asked council to consider legislation on an emergency basis authorizing her to advertise for a request for proposals for a new computerized water meter system that will allow the city's utility office staff to shut off delinquent water accounts and monitor water leaks in businesses and residences.
"This has been a long time in the making. The Neptune Technology Group approached us in 2008 regarding an analysis on our larger meter customers. They conducted that analysis in 2009 and said some of the larger meters were not reading correctly. And Neptune also did an analysis on residential meters that indicated they may not be reading correctly," related Finance Director Alyssa Kerker.
"They are offering a revenue guarantee through their meter program. Our idea is to put a meter program out for bid through a request for proposals. Ideally we would borrow funds to pay for the new water meter system that would be through a seven-year lease program," Kerker explained.
"Neptune estimates it would take 12 months to install meters for every business and residential customer. Once the system is in place we would be more proactive with our customers. We would be able to determine if water theft or tampering is taking place. We could monitor water leaks in a residence or business and notify the water department immediately so they can take action. And the water customer will have access to their account through the Internet," continued Kerker.
"We have the option to include the shut-off technology mandatory for all customers with a history of being delinquent on their bills as well as all rental properties," added Kerker.
She said the shut-off technology could be made available to other customers who want the water department to monitor their water system in case a leak develops.
Davison said the city is also considering installing the new meter system on fire hydrants to monitor water usage by demolition and construction companies using the hydrants.
"We also plan to continue working with Capital Recovery Systems on the delinquent accounts they already have to increase the collection efforts. We are looking at the creation of a labor pool which will reduce the overtime expense significantly. And we are continuing to look into the regionalization of a water system," stated Davison.
Davison said the proposed new water meter system and a contract to purchase energy on a competitive basis could save the city approximately $900,000 a year.
"This is a significant step for our water and wastewater departments. The city has an overall strategic plan but now we are preparing strategic plans for each department that will allow us to save money, maintain services for our residents and explore other options for the future," said Davison.
"These are ways to save our water fund without raising rates," remarked 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf.
Council's utility committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the water strategic plan before voting on the legislation next Tuesday.
In other business Tuesday, Metcalf proposed an ordinance authorizing the city manager to advertise for professional engineering construction administration services that will include the inspection and testing services for the Brady Avenue and University Boulevard resurfacing project.
Metcalf also proposed legislation authorizing the city manager to advertise for similar inspection and testing services for the John Scott Highway and Mall Drive improvements.
Metcalf also introduced a resolution of support for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce plans to erect a new entrance sign to the city at the Washington Street and state Route 7 intersection.
Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich introduced several finance-related ordinances, including amendments to the current appropriations legislation as well as a revenue tax budget for the remainder of 2012.
He also introduced an ordinance authorizing the approval of expenditures without a purchase order over $3,000; and authorization to transfer $10,000 from the general fund to the general capital projects fund as well as authorization to transfer $50,000 from the safety fund to the general fund.