Regionalized utilities would help grow area
There will be much discussion in coming months regarding the wisdom and need of a regional water / sewer system. Issues will be raised including those of governance, costs, operating economies, territoriality, capacities and infrastructure. These questions and more must be fully answered and data gathered before consensus can be obtained and we can move forward. Potential economic benefits for the county and region must be quantified.
The first thing necessary is to complete a thorough and detailed study of each system. It is evident that comprehensive studies must be completed to ascertain actual operating costs, maintenance costs, capacities and capital acquisition costs for each district. An estimate of capital requirements for known upcoming EPA requirements must also be included. Decisions must be made using the best data available to eliminate questions and criticism.
Solutions must be found to address loss of revenue that may be experienced with regionalization. Municipalities and counties operate these systems and realize significant revenues from them. Why would they not, however, want to hand these operations off to another entity that may operate more efficiently, enhance capacity, better serve the requirements of our residents and potentially improve our economic environment? The answer may be that not all revenues are utilized for system operations. If this is the case with any system, comprehensive solutions must be found to replace revenues lost through regionalization. This will be necessary to build consensus among all stakeholders.
Collection of this data may take a year or longer. Potential benefit to the economic environment in Trumbull County and to our residents must be detailed and publicized. There are many state agencies (e.g. Ohio EPA), engineering and legal resources available to us to appropriately gather this information.
Trumbull County has experienced significant population loss in recent years. Our population grew 52 percent between 1950 and 1980 when much of our infrastructure was installed. However, our population has fallen approximately 18 percent between 1980 and 2020! And system costs have increased due to recent EPA mandates. Regionalization would allow us to spread our costs over more customers and enable us to enhance capacities. Businesses know and recognize our region with regard to our transportation, labor and cost-of-living benefits. However, they also recognize our region regarding the fractured supply of water and sewer services and the resultant costs. Regionalization can help solve this truth.
We must start now as the next 20 years will see significant opportunities in the Voltage Valley. We must be prepared to compete on a national basis for these opportunities to the benefit of our business environment and citizens.