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Maintenance projects delayed have a price : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Maintenance projects delayed have a price

There's much talk in Washington, D.C. about controlling our nation's debt. We hear over and over again the federal government must get spending under control or our children and our children's children will face an economic catastrophe.

Locally, Oswego and Montgomery are, fortunately, operating with balanced budgets. But future generations of residents in both villages could face an economic crisis of their own if current officials in both communities now fail to budget enough revenues to maintain the public infrastructure, most notably their water systems and streets.

In Montgomery, village officials have already seen the results of what can happen when under-sized and poorly installed water mains age. Just two week ago the village's engineer told the village board it will cost approximately $7.8 million to replace and loop water mains in the unincorporated Boulder Hill Subdivision. Though the village, for a time, budgeted $250,000 annually to replace the bad mains in Boulder Hill, it wasn't enough and hundreds of homeowners in the subdivision reported experiencing severe problems with rust in their water this past winter after a well was shutdown for repairs.

In Oswego, the village's massive water tower in the Ogden Falls Subdivision near U.S. Route 30 and U.S. Route 34 has stood for nearly 20 years and is now in need of a paint job and other maintenance work. Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money to paint a water tower. The village's engineering consultants have estimated the cost at $850,000. But village officials are also faced with other expensive and pressing projects, including moving a village-owned water main out of the Ill. Route 71 right-of-way. Though financing at current interest rates may never be any cheaper, the board may still delay the paint and maintenance work on the water tower for at least another year to save money in the short-term.

Both villages also have numerous street maintenance projects that require funding now and in the years ahead. The problem with delaying street maintenance work is the cost for the work can spike dramatically as the condition of a given street deteriorates. A resurfacing project delayed for a few years may result in the need for the complete reconstruction of a street-at a significantly higher price than re-surfacing.

Longer-term the list of streets requiring resurfacing in Oswego and Montgomery will increase dramatically in the next several years as the miles of the streets that were installed in local subdivisions during the great homebuilding boom of the past decade age.

In the short-term it's usually much easier and politically expedient for a village board to delay maintenance work on streets, water mains, towers and wells. Certainly any board member who plans to seek re-election will want to tell voters he or she held government spending in check by rejecting water rate increases or other tax or fee hikes.

But there is a cost for delaying public infrastructure maintenance projects for future residents. Montgomery's experience with the Boulder Hill water system is a case-in-point. Previous boards accepted the system with all its flaws as it was developed and then subsequent boards and Boulder Hill residents have had to deal with its shortcomings. Now the village and Boulder Hill residents are facing that steep bill.

Both village boards have an obligation not only to their residents today, but also for future residents to maintain their water systems and streets. The boards in both communities need to make sure they are collecting not only enough in revenues to cover today's operational expenses, but also for necessary maintenance and even improvement projects to keep future infrastructure expenses in check. To do anything less will be to burden future generations of residents with expenses they should not have to.

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