Rate Optimism From Municipalities

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | February 2014, Vol. 69 No. 2

Speaking of money, while obtaining adequate funding strongly remains the No. 1 concern for municipalities, they also believe that better times are ahead beginning in 2014. Many prognosticators expect a flat year for sewer/water/storm water construction, but survey results indicated that municipal officials representing cities small to large, actually expect significant boost in their 2014 spending. It’s been many years since that scenario was in place.

There are many reasons for the anticipated spending increase. Perhaps the most evident is that cities have been holding back dollars out of fear that the continuity of their funding base could be maintained. Now, as economic stability has finally taken hold for many areas, city officials are becoming more confident while the state of their infrastructure systems has decayed even further. Desperation and fear of the EPA are powerful motivators.

In all fairness, some of that confidence could quickly slip away if our congressional impasse continues. Much of the blame has to lie with intransigent leadership from both Congress and the President. After six years of a new administration, you can’t shift the blame for economic woes any longer. By now, people don’t care who is to blame. All they know is that elected officials in place have become more of an obstruction than a solution. The slow crawl back to a healthy economy is years overdue. Too many personal agendas at play from all parties involved and too little motivation to truly work in the best interests of the people that elected you runs rampant throughout our national, even state, officials.

Another interesting twist for the economy of the sewer and water infrastructure industry involves the courts allowing the city of Detroit to file for bankruptcy. Interested parties are wondering how that situation is going to be resolved and who is going to be left holding the bag for the city’s debts, many of which include infrastructure? How will essential services be covered and will pension funds remain solvent at current levels? There are many questions and not very many answers right now, especially with other cash-strapped cities also considering bankruptcy as an option.

But for now it is a new year with new hope unseen for some time. My New Year’s toast is that the new-found optimism is justified and sustainable.