Avoiding Big Costs in Future

During the next few weeks, Steubenville residents and business owners will find out just how expensive it is going to be for them to overcome years of neglect of water and sewer systems. While they are being told that, they should be asking what will be done to prevent a similar situation in the future.

City officials say about $29 million needs to be spent to improve the water, sewer and sanitation systems during the next 10 years. Some costly projects are needed merely to comply with state and federal requirements.

In July, City Council members discussed rate increases to fund the initiative. The figure of $23.70 a month in higher base rates for water was floated. Reaction among the public was negative.

A new proposal, termed an “asset management plan,” is to be presented to council next week. It is coming from the Arcadis consulting company.

Precisely what Arcadis will recommend is not known. Clearly, it will have to include substantial rate increases, possibly during a period of years. Even if the city is able to obtain some grants and loans, the lion’s share of the cost to upgrade water and sewer systems will have to be borne by those who use them.

At least two public meetings will be held to discuss the proposal.

Time is of the essence, however. A rate increase plan needs to be in place by the end of October, to meet state Environmental Protection Agency requirements, council has been told.

Beyond any reasonable doubt, the city needs substantial rate increases. A major part of “selling” those to the public will be reassuring customers that a maintenance and improvement schedule is in place for the water and sewer systems.

Had city officials in the past adopted — and followed — such a plan, some of the expensive repairs and upgrades needed now might have been avoided.

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