Water plant project will be key step

Published 9:56 am Monday, November 27, 2017

Don’t expect the story to grab headlines or get the attention of many other local news articles from the past week or so. But the fact the city of Winchester and Winchester Municipal Utilities are moving forward with a massive infrastructure improvement plan is a critical announcement for the city’s future.

During last week’s board of commissioners meeting, WMU officials outlined a plan to finance a new $20 million water treatment plant and three other projects that will be funded using a combination of bonds, a loan and saved capital.

The new 9 million-gallon-per-day plant will nearly double the capacity of the city’s aging facility, which was last updated about 40 years ago. This may not sound like a big deal but it will position the community well for residential and industrial growth.

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Infrastructure investments aren’t nearly as flashy as some other public investments but perhaps nothing is more important to a community’s ability to grow and prosper.

Efforts to grow existing businesses and attract new industry — as well as the much-needed addition of housing — wouldn’t be possible without stable systems for water, sewer, electrical and roads.

WMU is looking at three other capital projects in the coming years, which would be part of the EPA consent decree to fix a number of sanitary sewer overflow problems within the city.

WMU has already spent $80 million to resolve nearly two dozen issues, all part of the unfunded mandates by the Environmental Protection Agency that has impacted hundreds of cities across the county with old sewer systems.

It is unclear if — or more likely when — some of these costs will be passed on to customers via rate increases, but that is understandable as long as they are moderate. We applaud the city and WMU for positioning themselves well to be able to make these investments with as little impact on citizens as possible.

Sometimes the most important steps toward progress are the ones behind the scenes.