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Botetourt supervisors are wise to invest in water system improvements.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Botetourt County has moved past the ability to toss back a few aspirin as temporary relief for its latest growing pains.
More attention must be devoted to averting those aches in the first place.
In the past, supervisors could cheer all growth without being picky about whether the supporting infrastructure was adequate and sustainable. Those decisions didn’t seem rash at the time, when the county was sparsely populated.
But county leaders now seem to be embracing smart planning and smart investments. As they do so, they’re also reaching back to smooth out rough spots created in previous years.
Supervisors last week endorsed a water and wastewater plan that should help them guide new growth over the next decade or two while keeping to the county’s comprehensive plan. The plan recommends $37 million in improvements, including $3.3 million in the short-term, mostly targeted to transform Botetourt’s fragmented water systems into a cohesive network that can better serve the growing southern portion of the county.
Right now, more than 50 small systems serve various suburban outposts, some as small as 10 homes. Supervisors wisely recognize they must purchase existing private systems, make improvements to those that are failing, invest in extensions that connect the disparate parts into a whole and then ensure proper management of the equipment.
The result will be a stronger utility system better adapted to handling isolated problems. More important, a dependable water system can be a draw for new businesses. As Botetourt matures, it must pay close attention to the mix of growth occuring within its borders. Residential growth typically costs more in demands for schools and other services, while commercial development generates revenues beyond its needs. Finding the right balance is hard but achievable with careful attention and discipline.
“We have to invest in water,” Supervisor Terry Austin told The Roanoke Times last week. “We can’t continue to grow without.”
How well supervisors adhere to their own water plan will be a key to future success.
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