If a new pilot program works out as Wheeling officials hope, reading city water meters soon will be as simple as driving down the street.
City Council met Tuesday in the second-floor courtroom at the City-County Building, as the process of moving council chambers to the former sheriff's tax office on the first floor continues. Among items up for first reading was an ordinance that would see the city spend $25,995 to purchase new meters for 200 residential water customers in the area of Wheeling Park High School. The new meters can be read remotely from the street, making for a less time-consuming process, according to City Manager Robert Herron.
Herron noted the city's current meters are "95 to 98 percent accurate," but said residents often complain their water bills are too often based on estimates rather than actual readings.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wheeling Councilman James Tiu listens to comments during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
"We're constantly under pressure ... to make sure that all the water in our pumps is accounted for. ... These (meters) will be read every month," he said.
Public Works Director Russell Jebbia said he wants to try the new system first and work out any potential problems before converting the entire city to the new meters.
Council also approved providing a $200,000 match for a National Parks Service "Save America's Treasures" grant of the same amount to restore the Capitol Theatre's terra-cotta facade. The vote was 6-0 in favor, with Councilman Eugene Fahey absent.
The Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. will oversee the project, and Herron said there is no specific timetable for work to begin. Last month, a national terra-cotta expert inspected the facade and said the design compared favorably with venues in several of America's largest cities.
In other business, Councilman Vernon Seals, who chairs the Finance Committee, reported that as of the end of March, there was $700,000 more in the general fund than at this time last year. Mayor Andy McKenzie asked for an explanation.
Herron said multiple revenue sources, including Business and Occupation Tax, 911 fees, gambling and property tax collections, have exceeded projections thus far this year. He pointed in particular to an 18 percent increase in video lottery revenue, which came despite increased competition from casinos in western Pennsylvania.
On the expense side, Herron credited the efficiency of city department heads as well as this past winter's lack of harsh weather, which can be a drain on city resources.
"We're having a pretty good year in what I think is still a tough economy," he noted.
Council also unanimously approved the city's action plan for approximately $1.22 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for the 2012-13 fiscal year and heard first reading of several traffic rules that will be up for a vote during council's next meeting May 15.
Other items approved unanimously Tuesday include:
- An agreement to pay the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health $25,000 for providing health services and the use of health facilities for the upcoming fiscal year;
- Providing matches of $92,452 and $10,000 for West Virginia Division of Highways grants for the Panhandle Trail Loop and Wheeling Chapline Hill Tunnel restoration projects, respectively; and
- Acceptance of $15,000 in Governor's Community Participation Grant money for improvements at the J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex off Interstate 470 in Elm Grove, and $5,000 from the same program for the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley ballfield, also located at the Chambers complex.