City Authorizes $6M Bond for Water Meters
Program will cost taxpayers "one way or the other," acknowledge officials.
After weeks of debate, the city's water meter issue was settled last night.
City Council voted, 6-3, Tuesday to approve a $6 million bond authorization to pay for the residential water meter installation.
"I see this here as somewhat of a light at the end of the tunnel," said Alderman Richard Gately.
According to the Council vote, the city can bond $6 million to pay for the water meter program. However, the City Council will have the opportunity to reduce that figure by various means, including the possibility of having residents pay for their meters or pay a metals charge.
"We dictate policy and we set the rates," added Gately. "I do believe we have enough control over [this] bond authorization."
The city must put in the residential water meters to avoid fines from the state.
"They got us now, whether we like it or not, guys," said Alderman Richard Haggerty. "We have to move on as a city."
Aldermen Michael Anderson, Paul Denaro, Michael Gaffney, Gately, Haggerty and Michael Raymond voted in favor of the bond authorization Tuesday. Aldermen Ray Drapeau, Rosa DiTucci and Darlene Mercer-Bruen opposed the decision.
"We should know [how we will pay the bond] first, then we should go forward. It’s backwards to me," said DiTucci. "It's loosey goosey… I’m very uncomfortable with this. I don’t think it’s because I’m unintelligent or haven’t been paying attention, I have. It just seems so thin."
Mercer-Bruen agreed, saying she did not feel comfortable putting her name on the bond.
"In my seven years on this council, I have never ever put my name on a bond for anything without knowing exactly what I was putting my name on," said Mercer-Bruen. "And I didn’t wait 21 months to vett it and vote on it then. And I didn’t wait to fill in the details later...
"I’m sorry, I can’t do it," she added. "I can’t put my name on this. I want to. I want to work with everybody. [But] these ordinances can’t be written afterwards. It has to be a complete package."
Although all of the details are not formalized, Aldermen Anderson, Haggerty and Gately all told the Council they felt comfortable voting for the $6 million bond authorization.
"When the schools were authorized, you knew approximately how much it would cost and that the taxpayers would pay for it," said Anderson. "We know the same here—approximately how much it will cost and that the taxpayers will pay for it."
"If you guys think for any reason that I would endorse this without knowing the bottom line, you’re crazy," added Gately.
Gately said city officials know what the project is—installation of 11,000 residential water meters.
"But they don’t know the system we have to put in or who is going to put the bid in," he continued. "We have a lot of work to do before one meter sees the light of day… I think we should get this [bond] done, get it over with, and do the work."
Gaffney told aldermen that he believes it is important "to get the funding mechanism in place." Once that funding is available, Gaffney said, the city can "write the ordinances" and set fees for the project.
It is the unwritten ordinances and future decisions on fees that concerned Drapeau.
"I don’t want any of my constituents surprised by any piece of this," he said Tuesday.
The vote for the $6 million bond authorization was: