Get Moving On Costly Projects

At first glance, being in a hurry to spend money and charge people more for municipal services seems, well, strange. But good for Steubenville officials, who are taking the attitude that the sooner they get moving on water and sewer system improvements, the better.

During their meeting Tuesday, Steubenville City Council members approved a couple of emergency ordinances regarding two projects. One involves designing a replacement for a sewer system aerator that could fail within two years. The other is to seek bids on construction of a new water line.

But those two projects are the tip of the iceberg in comparison to multiple, expensive repairs and upgrades needed to the water and sewer systems.

Multiple upgrades are needed merely to satisfy an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency mandate. And, solely to guard against water service interruptions, millions of dollars need to be spent on waterline work.

An idea of the magnitude of what lies ahead can be gained from comments made by City Manager Jim Mavromatis. During the Tuesday meeting, he discussed the potential of obtaining a $7 million loan from the OEPA, for use in replacing water valves throughout the city. As matters stand, it is possible OEPA officials will agree to forgive half the amount.

That sort of offer does not last forever. The sooner city officials can firm up plans for water and sewer work, the better.

Some council members have expressed frustration at the slow pace of the planning process. “We’ve been asking for this for about forever,” remarked Councilman Scott Dressel in regard to cost estimates for all the needed projects.

Information on that will be ready for council’s consideration next week, Mavromatis and Water and Wastewater Superintendent Chuck Murphy.

That will allow city officials to discuss scheduling and financing of the work — including rate increases that will have to be part of the initiative.

Implementation of higher water and sewer rates will not be popular, of course. But council members are right to want to get the ball rolling. The longer critical repairs and upgrades are postponed, the more costly they are likely to be for Steubenville residents and businesses.