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Is project affordable?

It seems obvious that Steubenville residents would benefit in multiple ways from redevelopment of the riverfront marina. It would be a good thing for the city.

But most of us have had opportunities to do good things for ourselves and our families — only to reflect that we would have to turn them down because we could not afford the expense.

A very similar question faces Steubenville officials. Answering it has caused some acrimony among them.

Within the next few months, city council members need to decide what to do about a $100,000 state grant approved some time ago to extend a waterline to the marina and build restrooms there. The money comes with strings, however; it would cost city taxpayers about $180,000 to undertake the project.

It has been pointed out that the marina project was envisioned at a time when city officials thought municipal finances could handle the $180,000 drain. But during the past year, it has become apparent there are many other needs competing for scarce city funds. Water and sewer infrastructure repairs and improvements are high on that list.

Councilman Robert Villamagna has suggested state officials be asked to allow the city to use the $100,000 for other purposes. Recreation Director Lori Featherolf told council last week “there are many needs at all our parks, not just the marina.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Hahn likes the idea of developing the marina, however. Referencing suggestions in a comprehensive development plan for the city, she told other council members that “every one of the seven big ideas in the comprehensive plan applies to the marina.” Hahn also said a Friends of the Marina organization is being formed, with a meeting planned for this week.

Both sides in the disagreement make valid points. Wheeling’s experience with development of its Heritage Port has been positive; a similar approach with the marina might benefit Steubenville.

But money has to be the bottom line. Steubenville officials should pursue improvements at the marina only if doing so does not siphon money away from other important, perhaps essential, projects.

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