Getting Help For Brilliant

Residents and business owners in Brilliant probably would be more understanding of a federal government decision that will cost them money if they believed the bureaucrats in Washington were held to the same standards. Too often, they are not.

Officials of the Brilliant Water and Sewer District are planning $3.6 million in work, including a new water treatment plant. It had been expected a sizable portion of the cost would be covered by a $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grant.

But in May, it was learned the grant was being rescinded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Certain required paperwork, including an environmental review, had not been filed on time by Martin Sohovich, who was director of the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission. Sohovich resigned soon after his lapse was revealed.

An appeal of the HUD decision was filed, but agency officials have refused to reconsider. That leaves the water and sewer district only the option of obtaining a $500,000 loan from the state Environmental Protection Agency.

Bless the OEPA for trying to help. But even though the loan will carry no interest, the $500,000 will have to be repaid. That will mean substantially higher water bills for Brilliant WSD customers.

Rules are rules, of course. Consider what happened, however: Failure to file the paperwork in question was not the fault of the water and sewer district. Officials there had no control over the process. Yet they and the district’s customers are being penalized.

How often do we hear of federal officials whose mistakes — and yes, sometimes misdeeds — cost taxpayers astronomical sums? And how often do we hear of such lackadaisical attitudes being punished appropriately? “Too often” and “virtually never” are the accurate responses.

Perhaps Brilliant’s representatives in Congress — U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson — can help. After all, there is nothing quite like a call to an agency from the people who hold its purse strings to get action.

The lawmakers may not be able to prevail. Still, asking for their help is worth a try.