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Saving Money In the Long Run

Steubenville residents and municipal officials may be pardoned these days for wondering why the hits to their wallets just keep on coming. Unfortun ately, this may be a situation in which it would not be wise to decide enough is enough.

City council members have approved massive water and sewer rate increases this year, in order to pay for repairs and upgrades that should have been handled years ago. As we have noted previously, don’t blame current officials. The problem of putting off rate increases to pay for infrastructure work did not occur on their watch.

But millions of dollars in one-time spending for new water lines, treatment plant upgrades and the like are only part of the problem, council members are being reminded.

Water Superintendent Jim Jenkins told utility committee members this week that money needs to be budgeted for preventive maintenance, not just big capital projects. He cited water storage tanks and the municipal reservoir.

“Something definitely needs to be done, sooner rather than later,” Jenkins said. Inspecting the reservoir annually and maintaining the tanks could cost as much as $307,000 a year, he added. Full-scale cleaning of the reservoir, if needed, could cost $500,000.

Rates being charged for water and sewer service do not include revenue for regular maintenance, Finance Director Dave Lewis told utility committee members.

Finding funds for such work ought to be considered a priority to save money in the future. “I would say a lot of capital projects for utilities are based on poor maintenance,” Jenkins explained.

Having just agreed to steep increases in utility rates, council members will be reluctant to add to them in order to raise money for maintenance. That attitude is laudable. Other avenues of providing funds for the purpose should be explored.

But, as Jenkins noted, a penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude could be expensive in the long run. Council members should bear that in mind.

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