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DESPITE UNION OPPOSITION, COUNCIL OKS PLAN TO REPLACE UP TO 300 WATER METERS

Over the objections of a union president, the Common Council on Wednesday approved a contract with a private firm to replace as many as 300 residential water meters in an effort to show water revenue will be increased.

The deal with Johnson Controls won't cost the city anything up front, but if the city decides to go along with the company's $6.6 million plan to replace almost all the water meters in the city and make improvements at the water and sewer plants, the cost of up to $150,000 will be included in that tab.

Johnson Controls representatives have promised the Council that the city will gain as much as $595,000 in water revenue without raising rates, and if the savings don't appear, the company promised to write the city a check making up the difference.

"Anything too good to be true probably is," said Alan Campisano, president of the city's unit of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

He told the aldermen that the meters installed in the past 15 to 20 years are 75 percent to 80 percent accurate and the city employs people qualified to test them. "If you choose not to talk to us, you're not doing a service to the taxpayers," Campisano said.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker promised Campisano, "I commit to you, I'll sit down and talk to you before I sign (the contract)."

In other matters, the Council approved a contract for a $67,000 state grant for the Richmond Avenue redevelopment project. Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the money will be used to pay for architectural design work on the run-down 19th century buildings on the block that are to be converted to commercial space.

On another topic, the Council considered a resolution urging Niagara County not to sell Mount View Health Facility, the county-owned nursing home, but withdrew it from the agenda.

All of the aldermen said they would sign a non-official letter to the County Legislature urging that Mount View be saved, but three of the aldermen refused to go along with an official resolution on the issue.

"We don't know the facts," Tucker said. "I think this is something we should stay out of. We certainly don't want them coming down here and butting into our business."

Alderman David E. Blackley objected, "The calls I've gotten on it (show) people want to keep it open. I don't see why I can't vote my constituents." But Aldermen Scott A. Cercone, Joseph C. Kibler and John Lombardi III voted against allowing the late resolution, sponsored by Aldermen Patrick W. Schrader and Phyllis J. Green, from coming to the floor.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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