Monday, January 11, 2010

Should We Fix the Water Pipes First?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 10:15 AM

click to enlarge oie_watermain.jpg
OK, if a poll showing overwhelming public opposition isn't enough to derail Mayor Karl Dean's new convention center, how about downtown's giant water main break? Seriously, if we have century-old pipes bursting, closing businesses and generally causing chaos, do we really have enough extra cash to embark on our biggest construction project ever? Talk about a third-rate municipal public-works infrastructure. "I'll let you connect those dots," Metro Council member Mike Jameson tells Pith. Jameson, the vocal convention center critic who represents downtown, was about to head to an emergency meeting on the burst water mains, and he wasn't in his usual jovial mood.
"They fixed it and then it rebroke. These are pipes that were put in, I kid you not, beginning in the 1890s. The most recent pipe we have there is a vintage 1910. So they're going to replace the whole thing. We're talking about from First Avenue up Broad to the courthouse and then both directions of Second Avenue. The initial estimate was we can get this done in about four weeks. Now they're beyond three months. Initial estimates were at $4 million. Now they've just stopped calculating."
In debating the convention center, you can play this game forever. There's a lost-revenue factor the council would do well to consider, especially in this time of city budget cuts when it takes a public referendum to raise property taxes. If we don't build the convention center, we can do other things like replace decrepit water pipes or build new schools or keep libraries open on the weekends. It's the point Jameson makes in today's City Paper. As one consultant said, "Money dedicated to a long-term project such as the convention center is necessarily unavailable for other projects that might also provide lasting value."

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