Being prepared always the best policy

For much of the last year, we have been reporting on discussions for the expansion of Weirton’s water and sanitary services.

When word first came about, it was said officials had been approached by a potential business looking into the possibility of bringing its operations to the community. At the time, it was stated that one business had the potential to overwhelm the existing treatment systems, meaning if any other businesses would want to come to Weirton, it would be impossible to meet their needs.

A task force of officials was formed to better look into these ideas, and begin to form a plan. That task force has now been dissolved, and each individual board — water and sanitary — will be responsible for their individual tasks from here on out.

We don’t know when or if these potential businesses will be here. There is always the possibility of industrial operations coming to the area, especially with the continued growth of the natural gas industry. There also will be a need for new residential developments.

So, the city is being proactive and starting now. These projects can’t be done overnight. In fact, they usually take several years before construction can even begin.

Current design proposals would double the capabilities for the water treatment plant, taking it from being able to handle 4 million gallons per day to 8 million gallons. The wastewater treatment plant, where the city’s sewage is sent, will triple, going from 4 million gallons to approximately 12 million gallons.

I’ve often noted that we probably will never see as large of an employer as Weirton Steel was in its heyday. We will see many smaller operations which, added together, can probably reach similar employment numbers. Those companies which have come here in the last couple of years already are talking expansion.

The water and sanitary services, then, will need to have more capacity if any of this comes to fruition, and making these preparations now may even help to attract new businesses.

At some point, though, if these projects do go forward (and it’s looking more likely that it will), there most likely will be some form of rate increase to Weirton’s residents and businesses. How much will depend on the total cost of these expansions and whether any grant funding becomes available to assist.

That’s something we never like to see. Increased expenses are seldom cheered, no matter the reason.

Each of us has a finite amount of money coming in each month. We must budget our funds in order to make certain we can pay for our shelters, food, clothing, car and other essentials of modern life. To hear one of those expenses will increase, not because of anything we have done, is difficult to swallow, and will mean adjustments have to be made.

That’s not always an easy pill to take, no matter how much growth we may see as a result of these improvements.

Still, it is good to see some amount of forward thinking by our local officials instead of reacting to whatever announcement may come down the road. It’s better to be prepared now than to get caught unaware later and then rush to try and catch up.

It would do well for everyone to pay attention to this project in the months ahead, both to know how it could affect your utility rates, but also to see what else may come to us in the future.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)