Change ahead | Editorial

As the school district and voters contemplate how to ready our schools for the needs of the next wave of students, the city (somewhat) quietly goes about the much less visible but no less important task of renewing basic elements of 21st century life here on the Island.

A few examples immediately come to mind. The $20 million Sewer Lake Line project, completed last year, replaced the crumbling decades-old line that extended around the northwest corner of the Island. Not only was the pipe replaced in the lake itself, but many side sewers to individual homes were rebuilt. The city has also been working on First Hill to repair and upgrade the sewer system there.

Now the city has turned its attention to the aging water system up on First Hill, where 50-year-old, two-inch pipes — coated with rust and likely filled with sediment — provide water to a range of dwellings, from modest homes built in the 1940s or 1950s to multimillion dollar homes built last year. The phase now underway will repair and improve water delivery to 150 homes. There are trucks, backhoes, piles of gravel and noise throughout the neighborhood. It is a loud and messy business. It, too, is costly — about $2.9 million is set so far.

There is other ongoing work. There is the resurfacing and repair of city streets. The present 2012-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan, indicates that about $2.5 million is to be spent each year for a total of $15 million. The city is asking for comments now on the update for plan and will hold a public session in late May. The South end firehouse is also up for renewal or replacement, with an open house set for April 24.

In his book, “The Triumph of the Cities,” author Edward Glaeser discusses what cities and towns need to consider as they age and change. Timing is critical. They must continuously renew their infrastructure while they listen and adapt to the changing needs and even the culture of their citizens. Such change must be done with an eye on preserving what is best, fixing what might be done better, while facing the future head-on.


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