Sanitation Service Changes Needed

For decades the predecessors of those serving now on Steubenville City Council held water and sewerage rates low, while the infrastructure supporting those services deteriorated. That forced city officials to increase rates dramatically, to provide money for repairs and needed upgrades.

The same mistake should not be made in regard to the city sanitation department. Fortunately, it looks as if council members are ahead of the game there.

Council members and sanitation department Superintendent Bob Baird discussed the matter at length this week — in a sometimes acrimonious conversation.

Last month, city Finance Director Dave Lewis told council members the sanitation department is running at a deficit of about $279,000 a year. Though some cash reserves exist, the department will run out of money by 2023, he said.

This week, Baird reminded council members that his department once had an enormous reserve. About $1 million of it was taken to bolster the water fund, he added.

And Baird noted sanitation rates have not increased since 2009.

Lewis’ forecast indicates a negative trend — but no immediate fiscal crisis. If changes in the department are to be made, now is the time, while the department has enough of a reserve to stave off a fiscal emergency.

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