Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fund infrastructure sustainably

The Peninsula has been living on borrowed time. We haven’t put money away for Hetch Hetchy and now we have billions, $4.3B to be exact, due to upgrade the water supply. And rate payers bills which has policy makers concerned everywhere. The Examiner writes: San Francisco and San Mateo counties have both been hit by this cycle more than once. Most famously, The City’s decades of diverting funds for more visible purposes, instead of spending on necessary upkeep of the aging Hetch Hetchy regional water system, has resulted in a $4.3 billion renovation program being largely paid by client water districts throughout the Bay Area.

We haven’t put money away on sewage either and now thirty years later we have a huge $40M bill to upgrade the sewer system. Other areas of deffered maintenance include our parks and roads ($30M in Belmont). And these will have to go into the rates increases, and the people who were stuck with handing out the bill, the current council, is likely to get voted out, in 2009.

And as usual we will try to cheat and deffer the true cost by "keeping rate increases gradual." This means that the next heavy rain storm can overload the system and require a higher bill. Add in the possibilities of floods, where the treatment plants are located (and require energy to pump the treated water up), and we really aren't ready for a rainy day! With the sewer cost the council wants to defer a portion and raise other rates equally thus subsidizing large users but keeping the cry down from them as well.

We need a sustainable infrastructure that reduces waste and reduces subsidies for consumption. We need to plan now and put in financial structures that can see us through the days ahead. We can't continue to expect to balance our books on the backs of our children. They will have problems of their own in the days ahead.

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