Water infrastructure is not holding its own with current funding. The rates are rising at the maximum allowed 5 percent per year and we cannot keep staffing at the desired levels.

The West Linn Water Department has lost two staff positions the last two years. What does that mean?

Recommended maintenance is not being done, response to emergencies is slower and limited, and more small jobs that could be done cheaper by the city go undone or are contracted out.

The citizens of West Linn should know we have a very excellent water department that does what it can on a shoestring budget under the supervision of Jimmy Whynot. Jimmy is currently trying to identify water-wasting leaks in the system but lacks the personnel and equipment to do so efficiently.

Very little capacity outside of high priority system operations is available for routine maintenance and emergencies. Recommended tasks like checking fire hydrants and exercising water valves are not being done.

Response to emergencies like the two waterline breaks on Old River and Apollo roads the last few months is slowed and result in major disruption to schedules and budget.

Small jobs like water meter installations and replacement are delayed. And leaks that Jimmy knows are there but can’t find are likely to turn into breaks requiring much more expensive emergency response.

The last three years West Linn managed to complete three projects for waterline replacement of the outdated pipe everyone agrees needed replacement.

This was not enough keep up with rate of aging/deterioration. The water system reserve funds, a mandated account maintained for financial, legal and emergency purposes, fell from $620,000 to $468,000.

This is less than the $620,000 goal for current and is very close to our mandated bond covenant requirements leaving us no emergency capacity.

With the success of conservation measures and the slow economy further reducing water revenues, West Linn cannot afford to replace deteriorated pipes. This inability will ultimately degrade the safety of the water system if not corrected.

West Linn has one of the lowest water rates in the region. While we might like to think this is deserved, it is because we are and have been passing on costs to the next generation. That is why we now have so many pipes to be replaced.

The water system will continue to operate with Band-Aids, duct tape and baling wire because it is one of the three most critical infrastructure components of city services along with roads and sewer. However, it will get more and more expensive to operate, it will be less safe and it will ultimately require emergency funding far exceeding what we would pay with prudent financial management.

Michael Monical is a West Linn resident.

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