Wilmington 3rd District city councilman Darius Brown is using National Infrastructure Week to raise awareness of the importance of investing in the local and national infrastructure – despite tight budget times.
Brown led a tour of the 16th Street water filtration plant where nearly $60 million dollars has been spent recently on various capital improvements.
Two recent plant upgrades – state of the art microfiltration technology that removes contaminants and a renewable energy cogeneration facility that meets nearly 85% of the plant’s power needs –were highlighted, along with $7 million in upcoming improvements to the Brandywine River raceway – a 250 year-old means of diverting water from the river to the plant.
Brown says bringing attention to projects like these is imperative to ensure infrastructure spending remains a top priority of city officials.
“Also being able to educate the public on the necessity of it,” added Brown. “I think they understand the necessity of it when they can’t get water out of their faucet, but for many of them it’s really through events like this that they’re educated on what actually goes into this.”
Those improvements were funded by the city’s water and sewer fund – which is separate from the general fund – but Public Works Commissioner Jeff Starkey says other projects for electric and telecom grids, roads and bridges – require a different funding.
“We do a lot of asset management,” Starkey said. “We go through and take an inventory of what we have in place. And then we usually do a capital improvement project. Every two years we go to the bond market to try to fund some of these projects. And obviously some of your water rates are based on increases based on improvements that we do capital-wise.”
Capital improvements to roads, bridges, and electrical and telecommunications grids all must be sustained through comprehensive investments – a process that becomes increasingly difficult as budget shortfalls continue.
Councilman Brown hopes the attention shows the need for long-term fixes and innovative solutions to address deteriorating infrastructure in the city, the state and across the country.
“Look at how many of our federal roadways that run through the city, our state roadways that run through the city, how they are major commercial and residential arteries. Without the proper funding for those federal roadways, we’re not able to leverage a lot of the things we do within the neighborhoods and communities.”