News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Editorials

August 7, 2013

EDITORIAL: Partnership of progress

Collectively, community can make itself better

TERRE HAUTE — It sure is fun and cathartic to rail about government and its excesses. Lots of people do it. We join in the chorus ourselves from time to time.

But fairness requires us to stand back and recognize that government has productive and positive functions. It can and does accomplish things on behalf of the public more often than most people are willing to acknowledge.

Case in point — the major and unprecedented upgrade currently under way to Terre Haute’s wastewater treatment plant. The old plant and system were long ignored and improvements delayed. There never seemed to be enough money. And no politician wants his or her name attached to a project that may raise taxes or sewer rates.

But time takes its toll on infrastructure such as sewer systems. Technology advances. And communities expect environmentally sensitive facilities, such as wastewater plants, to change with the times and also recognize the responsibility to do better jobs of protecting natural resources.

The mammoth project now under way, with a massive price tag of $120 million, is being completed in phases. When it’s done, Terre Haute will have a modern wastewater system that will better serve the needs of its people and better support current and future businesses. What’s more, it’s designed to eliminate what remains of the city’s infamous treatment plant odor that’s offended the olfactory senses of residents, visitors and passersby on Interstate 70 for decades.

Yes, the cost of the project is already being felt with higher sewer rates. Progress is not free. And while many may have the occasional urge to complain about the rates and high costs of such a project, few would deny that these improvements are necessary and long overdue.

Mayor Duke Bennett and his administration have taken on the huge task of advancing what the mayor calls “the largest public works project in the history of the city.” We commend them for that.

When the project is finished and the local wastewater system is functioning, it will exist largely in the background (or perhaps we should say underground) of city services. It should remind us that we rely on government to take on such projects, but that the government is not just some shadowy entity down at City Hall. The government is us.

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