Water, Sewer Tours Good

Before selling the municipal water and sewer systems to a private company, should they decide to pursue that course, St. Clairsville officials will have to take on a tougher “sell” — city residents.

One big selling point is the age of the systems and the need for repairs and upgrades to them. That was in evidence Monday, when St. Clairsville City Council members accepted bids for a new water storage tank.

Between them, the two bids for separate aspects of the work total more than $1.6 million. Contractors are to install a new 500,000-gallon storage tank to replace one built in 1929 that holds just 200,000 gallons.

St. Clairsville residents can expect more of the same during coming years, not just to keep the systems in good repair but also to comply with expensive Environmental Protection Agency mandates.

Earlier this fall, city officials met with an official of a major private utility that is interested in taking over St. Clairsville’s water and sewer systems. No decision was made, but council members seemed interested in the idea.

A plan announced Monday by Safety and Service Director Jim Zucal could stimulate the public’s interest, too. He told council members he hopes to schedule public tours of the city water and wastewater treatment plants early next year.

Zucal noted he plans to hold numerous open houses at the plants, including some during evening hours and on Saturdays, to ensure anyone interested gets to see the infrastructure.

Mayor Terry Pugh likes the idea. As he put it Monday, open houses and tours will give St. Clairsville residents opportunities “to take a look at our infrastructure and see for themselves how old it is.”

Before any decision on whether to sell the municipal systems is made, public hearings will be held on the matter, city officials have pledged.

Whether such a transfer is made depends on many factors. Obviously, council members need to be as certain as possible that private ownership of water and sewer systems would be a good deal for consumers.

They are to be commended for looking into the issue now, however — instead of waiting until the infrastructure is such a wreck that no one wants to risk buying it.

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