Homeowners are reminded, as autumn winds and rain submerge their homes under layers of deciduous leaves, fir needles and broken tree branches, of the need to perform essential home care and maintenance projects to protect their investments. Gutters and roofs (not to mention countless other amenities) need to be cleaned and at times even replaced due to age and decay. A world parallel to and overlapping that of West Linn homeowners is the city of West Linn’s maintenance and care program for its aged water system infrastructure — a system in need of urgent replacements and repairs.

Homeowners find an excellent maintenance and care program can enhance home safety and security plus help save money by fixing problems before they get larger, thus, protecting their financial investment. Four safeguard program principles might include:

1. Employing regular preventive maintenance such as cleaning gutters, roofs, walls and decks.

2. Carrying out repairs as needed to prevent minor problems from escalating into larger ones.

3. Planning ahead for major maintenance tasks such as reroofing, replacing the heating system or repainting so the owner has the time and money when needed.

4. Preparing for emergencies (e.g., knowing how to turn off water, gas and power supplies during storms, fires or earthquakes).

The city of West Linn finds that these same principles apply to one of its largest capital investments — the care and maintenance of its water infrastructure system.

This infrastructure includes 125 miles (12 miles asbestos) of 1/2”-24” pipe, water pressure varying between 40-160 psi, thousands of hydrants, six reservoirs, five pump stations, 9,000 water meters, 34 pressure reducing stations, eight surge valves and four altitude valves. Jimmy Whynot, water operations supervisor for the city, asserts that failures within the system are occurring at a higher rate of frequency and cost than in years past. He stresses this based upon his 15 years as supervisor and firsthand experience with more than 300 waterline breaks.

Currently, the city finds itself falling short when planning ahead for major replacement maintenance tasks related to the system. This is due to insufficient funds as previously discussed in West Linn Tidings articles and editorials (see Ray Kindley’s Oct. 4 piece).

Some argue that we cannot afford these investments during a time of economic distress. To the contrary, we cannot afford to neglect our infrastructure any longer and there are terrific reasons to invest in it:

1. Providing safe, clean water is a fundamental West Linn public health and safety service.

2. The current water system is decades old and, if left as is, could threaten the safety of drinking water.

3. Water infrastructure contributes to the economic vitality of a city and encourages economic growth and prosperity.

4. The adopted water master plan positively affects the availability of clean drinking water and emergency water supply.

West Linn citizens have an opportunity to support a bipartisan cause that will positively affect them for years — the indispensable need to invest in its crumbling water infrastructure. Currently, the city council is critically considering an early spring vote for a water rate increase to secure revenue bonds to improve waterline infrastructure. This can only be done with voter approval, as mandated by city charter. I urge all citizens to support it!

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Jon Miller is a member of the West Linn Utility Advisory Board.

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