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Water partnership makes sense

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Debt ceiling jitters. Wall Street's rollercoaster ride. It may seem this is no time to spend money and especially when it comes to sewer, water or streets, but we all rely on those critical facilities and services every day.

Your city government has an obligation to provide a safe and reliable water system, a sewer system that doesn't pollute our streams, and streets that support our community and our businesses. Yet investment in maintenance and reinvestment in such critical assets is being labeled 'spending to grow' by some in our community.

Spending money on basic human health and safety needs - water, sewer, transportation - is not discretionary if we want to enjoy the benefits such investments provide. Decisions made decades ago to invest in building these systems have made it possible for Lake Oswego to be what it is today. What do we want Lake Oswego to look like in the next 50 years? Do we want to continue supplying adequate supplies of safe drinking water, reliable wastewater service and a well-connected and efficient transportation system? If so, we are not squandering precious dollars, but rather investing to sustain the quality of life Lake Oswegans have enjoyed for the last 50 years.

Our infrastructure needs and community costs are not unique. Across this nation, state, county and local governments are being forced to face the unpleasant reality of decaying, unreliable and obsolete infrastructure and how to pay for its renewal and replacement. When the major backbone of Lake Oswego's water system was constructed in the 1960s it cost the community a little more than $5 million. To replace that system today, Lake Oswego's share of costs is estimated at $106 million.

Yes, these costs are substantial and the impact to ratepayers is real. But suggestions by some that simply conserving more water will avoid these expenditures and related debt service is to miss the real issue - the issue of our decaying infrastructure. As a homeowner, I want my roof to last as long as possible before it has to be replaced, but I cannot extend the life of my roof by simply living in one room of my home. This is the fallacy some would like us to believe is the 'silver bullet' to our infrastructure woes. Such notions are speculative at best. What we know to be true is that the condition of Lake Oswego's major water facilities is poor, the cost of municipal credit is low, particularly for Lake Oswego with its AAA credit rating, and a huge workforce needs jobs - jobs that can be created in our own state and local communities and which in turn help support local businesses.

Fiscal responsibility is necessary for any community and the partnership with Tigard is a very good current example of that obligation. It offers significant cost savings - one-time and ongoing - for Lake Oswego water customers and is being approached in a fiscally responsible manner as was our community's LOIS sewer project, completed this year on-time and under budget.

Joel Komarek is the project director for the Lake Oswego Tigard Water Partnership.