Ensure residents are informed

St. Clairsville, the seat of government for Belmont County, is a divided city right now. The big point of contention is whether or not to privatize the municipal water and wastewater treatment systems.

Some city leaders seem to strongly favor privatization — specifically, they want to sell the systems to Aqua Ohio. Many residents, though, oppose that plan, fearing loss of local control, higher rates and slow service when problems arise.

Ultimately, City Council will decide whether to sell those assets to Aqua Ohio. Members of council are elected by the residents and, therefore, should make every effort to represent their interests and points of view.

It is true that residents may not be as well informed about the situation as city officials are. If that is the case, it needs to change so that residents are convinced that city leaders are making the right decision.

Surely, there must be other potential buyers for the city’s treatment systems, or other solutions must be possible. Residents want to know why these ideas aren’t receiving more serious consideration.

Council members should let their constituents know that they have studied alternatives and considered other options.

For example, tell the people why Belmont County cannot supply the city with water. If the county does not have the capacity right now, what would it take for the county to make enough water available?

Has the city considered purchasing water from other local treatment systems, such the city of Martins Ferry or the Tri-County Water Authority based in Harrisville? If so, what are the obstacles to buying water from them? If not, why not look into those possibilities now, before taking action on Aqua Ohio’s proposal?

Finally, has the city sought bids from other private entities that might offer a better deal than Aqua Ohio? If so, what response has been received? If not, why not?

If city leaders already have examined these possibilities, they need to explain that clearly to residents. If they have not, they should perform their due diligence in an effort to put residents’ minds at ease.

We understand that a decision may need to be made quickly, but we also urge council members to be certain they are well informed — and that their constituents clearly understand their reasoning — before they make a decision that will have a lasting impact on the community.