ILWACO - City of Ilwaco Public Works Superintendent Randy Lavold presented a possible solution for water meter problems to Ilwaco City Council at their meeting Monday evening.

With recent complaints from Ilwaco residents regarding water meter efficiency and the need for more regular meter readings, Lavold suggested the city invest in radio read water meters sold through H.D. Fowler. Lavold explained that the new meters would communicate with a hand-held unit, which would read any of the city's meters from up to a mile away and transmit the readings to a centralized computer at Ilwaco city hall. He explained that with the current process that the city uses to read meters, it usually takes three men and 40 or more man-hours to read all the meters in the city each month.

Council member Ron Willis asked Lavold if the proposed meters would read more accurately than meters are read currently. Lavold explained that in addition to being more accurate by reading rates several times each minute, the meters can also report if they are experience consumption changes (such as a leak) or if it has been tampered with. He also explained that with the required computer programs, the city could also see an increase in water billing accuracy.

Council member Fred Marshall noted that to purchase the proposed meters at $153 each, it would take approximately six years for the city to break even with the costs, which he commented as "a pretty good return on an investment and worth doing." Lavold also noted that the radio read meters' batteries are guaranteed for 20 years.

"One of the best things is the capability of the meters to read into our offices, detect leaks and read into the office daily," Council member Mike Cassinelli stressed. "With readings several times a minute, we will have much more control in the office."

Another option involves the city having a base station for meter readings, but several council members were reluctant to the idea since it appears to be more expensive and can be tampered with more easily.

Council member David Jensen recommended that the city advertise for competitive bids for the meters so that they could review other proposals that might meet other needs.

Marshall agreed, "Council needs a clear picture of obvious alternatives, comparing on a cost basis. Then we can make a reasonable decision on what we can afford to do and afford to maintain."

In other business, Jenna Austin approached council with her presentation on the upcoming Nautical Renaissance event at the port over Memorial Day weekend. The event is planned to feature the Tall Ships, nautical events, pirate appearances, musical performances, treasure hunts and other waterfront activities. Austin requested for the same amount of funding that the city provided last year, $1,000, which would help pay for banner advertising and marketing.

"Last years was a great success and positively impacted all sorts of Ilwaco businesses," Austin explained to council.

Cassinelli noted that the Chinook nation works diligently with the Tall Ships event and reenactments.

"We should be proud of our heritage here," said Cassinelli. "Last year, the Tall Ships recognized and respected the disturbed Chinook burial grounds [near the Chinook tunnel] through a dedicated salute."

Austin's funding request was approved.

A public hearing was held regarding the close-out report for the $400,000 Community Development Block Grant for Grays Harbor College construction. Grays Harbor College President Ed Brewster reported that the new college building is upon completion and is now offering a variety of special interest classes to approximately 250 students.

"We're able to provide a variety of things that target small business," said Brewster. "Thank you for all the support we've received."

Among the listed topics for discussion, the Black Lake Trail is a concern of Jensen, who utilizes the area on a regular basis. He reported that on numerous occasions he has seen suspicious activity, such as cars parked in odd places along the trail and people who appear to be loitering for no apparent reason. He suggested that the gate to the old maintenance shop be locked and that council consider placing signage in the area restricting motorized vehicles. Willis suggested that the city contact Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright to see if the department would be willing to patrol the trail area on a daily basis.

Jensen also explained his recent task of preparing estimates of the building as is. With a figure of $800,000 from the insurance for the first segment, council and the fire department were also given the go ahead to hire a project manager for the process.

While Ilwaco Fire Chief Tom Williams reported that the fire department isn't exactly working from the most ideal situation, he continues working on inventory sheets on the department's equipment and meeting with the insurance company.

During public comment, Ilwaco Planning Commission Member Don Berger told council that he felt they were "jumping the gun" by going into detail on the height variance during a public hearing on a proposed commercial site plan for the Harbour Landing Commercial and Condominium Complex to be located at 118 Lake Street SW. Feeling that the height variance should be tackled at a later date, Berger also commented that Marshall expressed caution when council voted to giving $1,000 to the Beach Safety Education Program. Marshall explained that he wanted to make sure applicable rules were followed. Berger was also curious as to why there wasn't hesitation when council voted to give funding to the Friends of Cape Columbia and asked if there was any way for the city to take the funding back. Mayor Doug Hubbard explained that the process was a done deal, but that Berger could raise the question with the state auditor in the fall.

Also during public comment, Melissa Stern, a representative from the Ilwaco Children's Day Parade Committee, asked the city for the permission to block off areas from the light at First Street down through Howerton Way along the the port. Stern's request was approved.

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