Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Open Forum: We need to improve our water system for the long term

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First, I'd like to take my hat off to the Mount Airy Water Commission for all their hard work in the past two years on tackling a difficult topic. There is no question upgrades and improvements in our water system are necessary in the long term.

As a registered engineer and professional environmentalist (I am on the editorial board for the Industry “Bible“ for Environmental Compliance), I am well aware we need long-term improvements.

On the other hand, in the past several years, things have improved. Certainly, we are no better or worse than most other cities and related water jurisdictions. Fixes and improvements — and to some extent this is in the eye of the beholder — are always warranted.

Environmental and engineering consultants could provide a long litany of needed upgrades. Unfortunately, the taxpayers are left with the bill at the end. One can argue whether the cup is half full or half empty, but the costs of a “full cup“ could be staggering.

The timing is horrible for a water rate increase, following a state and (eventually) local tax increases, a troublesome economy, and the fact that water rates were increased 18 months ago. On the other hand, rates may eventually need to increase to keep up with both other jurisdictions and actual related Mount Airy costs.

The council remains committed to providing clean and safe water to the residents, but at an affordable cost. As mentioned earlier, things have gradually improved in the past few years, and I'm hoping we can work with town staff, the commission and others to address this problem.

Dave Pyatt, Mount Airy

The writer is president of the Mount Airy Town Council.