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How much do we invest in our infrastructure?

There’s been a great deal of discussion, on both the state and national level, on infrastructure improvements. Seemingly every politician in recent weeks has had something to say about infrastructure. What it is? What needs done to improve it? Who is going to benefit?

I think we all can agree investment is needed. We are constantly looking at building bigger and better, but often forget, or outright neglect, what already is here. Whether it be roads, utilities, rail, air travel, electricity…once it is built, it needs to be maintained or replaced.

On the national level, both Democrats and Republicans have proposed infrastructure legislation, which could cost billions, if not trillions, of tax dollars. The debate, right now anyway, is on what actually qualifies as infrastructure and how much to spend on it.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of these mass-spending, all-encompassing proposals. I don’t care what side holds the gavel. There’s too much opportunity to sneak extra stuff in there. Maybe the better bet for everyone is to put together multiple bills, with each focusing on a different element.

We would have a better idea of how much is being invested and where, as well as on what type of projects.

That would probably take too much time for them, though.

Another part of that is the American Rescue Plan. Our area is set to receive millions in direct allocations to our local governments as part of this federal program. The state also will receive allotments for various purposes, which could be distributed to various communities.

There’s a lot of talk, though, about how to use those funds, with many saying they are waiting for more exact direction from the federal government. What is agreed to, though, (for the most part) is the money should be used as an investment into the future of our region.

Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis put it this way, Tuesday, when saying “I don’t think we should play Santa Claus.”

The idea of investing these federal dollars into long-term projects which will, eventually, be beneficial to thousands of area residents, instead of building repairs or pet projects, is probably the best way to go. I imagine that’s why some federal officials have been putting so much emphasis on the use of ARP for broadband, water and sewer improvements.

Water and sewer development would have multiple opportunities. Some of our residential and business areas aren’t served by public utilities, and some which are have aging lines which break easily. There also is the thought that running new lines in land targeted for development could attract new businesses, which means job opportunities.

Broadband improvement is a necessity for our region. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the last year, it’s that we are woefully underserved when it comes to internet access. Look at the difficulties faced by some of our local students when schools had to switch to remote learning. There are areas of both Hancock and Brooke counties where existing internet providers feel it is too cost prohibitive to provide service.

This isn’t a discussion that is going away. It is going to be a constant cycle. That’s one of the downsides of living in a “developed” society. Everything we do in an attempt to “improve” our lives requires constant attention or it will crumble.

The question becomes, what are we going to do to keep the society we’ve built from physically going to ruin?

(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)

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