By Longview News-Journal
In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump called for $1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure projects. We know the topic is not as much a hot button as many others he discussed, but we commend the president for bringing attention to it.
The fact is infrastructure — roads, bridges and so forth — is an important but often-overlooked and underfunded item. That is unfortunate, because projects to maintain, build and expand such systems are at the core of what keeps our country moving and its economy booming. Imagine how difficult our lives would be if we did not have good roads or reliable electric and water service.
In the case of water supplies, we don’t even see the pipes and lines; most of us have just come to expect water will come forth when we open our taps. We take for granted that it will be there, and that it will be clean and safe to consume.
In recent weeks we have witnessed what can happen when we take too much for granted, when we fail to pay attention to what is happening at the other end of those pipes that bring us water. We have seen that if we do not have capable, well-intentioned people monitoring our water, we can wind up like the customers of Elderville Water Supply Corp., which recent developments suggest has been going off the rails for some time.
It has become clear there was a significant lack of oversight by the directors who hired Ernie Paul five years ago as general manger to head the water supply. That lack of oversight continued to the hiring of Utility Director Dean Carrell, which came despite his felony conviction six years ago for defrauding the city of Sonora when he was city manager there.
Paul and another employee were recently terminated by the water supply’s board, and others have been suspended amid what appears to be a criminal probe. At this point, however, it appears Carrell will continue as utility director.
Now that the situation is getting much-needed scrutiny from patrons and law enforcement, we hope the situation is cleaned up and the water supply can soon get its house in order to provide reliable service to its customers. As that happens, there also should be a review of the oversight process that allowed the situation to get to such a low point in the first place.
We see a couple of important lessons in this situation. One is the crucial importance of infrastructure. As the customers of Elderville Water Supply who have suffered with inadequate service and high costs can attest, life becomes quite difficult without such systems. Building and maintaining them is a proper use of tax dollars, and one we support.
Another is the same one we brought up in the past year regarding the case of East Mountain city government. In both situations, we believe, a lack of attention from a majority of voters and taxpayers both to their elected officials and their employees led to improper, costly and potentially dangerous shenanigans. To avoid such situations, residents must be engaged at the ballot box and in keeping an eye on officials and their activities. Only then will their decisions be prudent and properly keep our cities, state and nation moving forward.