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Create Master Plan for Sewers

Martins Ferry officials appear to be trying to avoid the mistake made in Steubenville during a period of decades. They are correct in using a gradual strategy to address municipal utility upgrades.

It appears something of a “seat of the pants” approach is being used, however. As officials understand, that needs to be replaced by a carefully devised long-term plan.

Martins Ferry sewerage bills will be increasing by $6 a month, beginning Dec. 1. That includes a $5 increase in minimum monthly rates, plus another $1 going to the sewer system debt fund.

City Service Director Scott Porter announced the increase during a City Council meeting last week. He noted state and local laws allow him to implement the changes without action by council.

Council members have discussed the matter, however, and seem agreeable to the new rates.

Porter explained additional revenue is needed to make repairs and upgrades to the sewerage system. Some of them are mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Rate increases have been approved in Steubenville, too — but they are substantially higher. That city’s council has been forced to approve a series of rate hikes that, in four years, will add $28.98 to minimum bills for water, sewer and garbage collection combined.

Action in Steubenville followed many years in which city officials understood rates needed to be increased to handle necessary repairs and upgrades — but did not implement them. Good for the current council and other officials for finally taking responsibility in the matter.

Gradual increases such as that planned in Martins Ferry may avoid the crisis situation that Steubenville faced.

As Martins Ferry City Attorney Paul Stecker pointed out last week, however, strategic planning is needed. A master plan for necessary upgrades should be prepared, he said.

Precisely. That would give city officials a better idea of how much money will be needed to complete the work. It also might encourage the OEPA and other state and federal agencies to help out with funding. Creation of the master plan ought to be the next step for Martins Ferry officials.

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