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Make wise use of stimulus funds

For the last couple of years, Weirton officials have been making plans for the expansion of the city’s utility plants, all in an effort to increase treatment capacity in anticipation of future development in the community.

Plans call for the water treatment plant to go from its current 4 million gallons per day capacity to 8 million, with the wastewater treatment plant also going from 4 to 8 million gallons, with the potential for an additional 4 million in the future if it is ever needed.

We also learned last week both projects are expected to be completed sometime in 2024, once designs are completed and approved, contractors are selected and construction gets under way.

One thing that is not yet established is how these projects will be funded.

Design loans have been secured through the West Virginia Water Development Authority, with multiple funding sources being eyed for the construction phase, including loans through the state and federal governments. Grant opportunities also are being discussed.

One option, which was raised during a council meeting last week, was the possibility of using a portion of the funds Weirton anticipates receiving through the American Rescue Plan.

This block of COVID stimulus funds, with dollars set to be awarded directly to both the state and local governments, will see millions of dollars coming to our communities. Federal officials have specified uses for the funds can include infrastructure improvement, such as water, sewer and broadband.

That means Weirton’s utility projects would be a perfect use for the ARP dollars, and we encourage Weirton officials to take a serious look at using however much they can for these plans.

We don’t know exactly how much the expansions are going to cost once they are complete, but we do know it will result in a rate increase to local residents and businesses.

The fewer loans taken out to pay for it, the less of an increase will be anticipated. So, if grants or ARP funds can be put toward these costs, it is less money the city has to borrow and it means a lower increase for the people of the city.

That will be good for everyone.

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