Council pulls plug on meters
Plans to borrow money to implement water meters in Armstrong have dried up for the time being.
The city had hoped to pay for the remaining portion of water meter installation through a $400,000 provincial Towns For Tomorrow grant, but Armstrong was denied the grant request.
“What we’re dealing with today is an opportunity to figure out how to move forward,” said Coun. Shirley Fowler, the city’s public works committee chairperson.
Armstrong chief financial officer Terry Martens prepared a two-page report for council with five options for water meter financing.
The choices included using a combination of gas tax and water reserve funds, shifting $325,000 transferred earlier this year to the roads/drainage reserve to the water meter project or use short-term borrowing.
The two options that drew the most conversation from council included borrowing internally from the city’s sewer reserves or postponing the project until a grant application is successful, that option championed by Mayor Chris Pieper.
“I think we all support water meters, I personally support implementation, and I believe the City of Armstrong will have water meters, but it should be financially planned,” said Pieper.
“Historically, this has been a poorly planned process.”
The city was originally turned down for a grant to install the meters, then hoped to borrow money using an alternate approval process which was defeated by city residents. The Towns of Tomorrow grant was the next step in the process.
“I suggest we wait and apply for grants between now and spring,” said Pieper.
“If none come our way, then we add it to the budget planning process in the spring. The city will survive next spring without water meters. It should be properly planned financially.”
Coun. John Trainor suggested the city investigate a comment from Martens that technology had changed and that a once huge cap between mechanical and high-tech meters has closed considerably.
“I think we owe it to ourselves and the city to further investigate the possibility of moving forward with the new technology if the price is in the same ballpark,” said Trainor.
Coun. Ryan Nitchie said the city should move foward with its water management plan, stating “the primary focus is managing the precious water resource we have and that water meters is one step towards that.”
Coun. Sully O’Sullivan also wanted to move forward, saying the meters plan had been in the works for seven or eight years already.
Fowler pointed out that all commercial meters had been installed and that approximately 130 residential meters had been put in place, leaving about 1,600 left to be installed.
In the end, council voted unanimously to wait for an opportunity to apply for grants between now and the 2012 budget planning process.
If there are no grants to be found, the meters will be included in the 2012 budget plan using 2012 gas tax revenue and whatever else is required from reserves.