The prospect of dramatically higher water and sewer bills, as much as 50 percent over the next five years, is understandably a huge concern to Walla Wallans.
And that's why a crowd of about 60 attended the city of Walla Walla's first town hall meeting on fixing the lousy streets and replacing the cracked and crumbling sewer lines.
We all know, and have known for some time, that the streets need a lot of work. We can all see -- and feel -- the pot holes and ruts that mar the roadways.
But the situation might be even worse under those streets. It is estimated the city is losing 1 billion gallons of clean, drinkable water per year due to broken and undersized pipes, which is about a 25 percent. The city is under a state directive to reduce the loss of water to 10 percent.
In addition, contaminated water is leaking out of failing sewer pipes at concerning levels.
"There is no easy fix. And the picture that has been fixed for me is that it is now reaching a critical phase, and we cannot stand back and expect a future generation to take care of this problem," said City Manager Nabiel Shawa.
Those who attended the first town hall meeting, which took place last month, clearly understood the magnitude of the problem. They asked good questions, focusing on how their tax dollars will be spent.
"I was impressed with how seriously people took this issue," Mayor Barbara Clark said. "They really wanted to understand the conditions of the infrastructure; they wanted to understand the options available and how this was going to effect them or their neighborhood or their streets."
Tonight is the second opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns to city officials. The town hall meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Housing Authority Gym, 501 Cayuse St. If you can't make that meeting there will be two other opportunities in the next month.
Meetings are set for March 18 at 7 p.m. at the Walla Walla Community College Conference Center, room 185; and April 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Whitman College Reid Campus Center Ballroom, 280 Boyer Avenue.
City officials, including members of the City Council, will establish a final plan that will take into consideration citizens' comments.
But action will be taken. The city has no choice but to put in place aggressive plans to repair our streets and the infrastructure under the ground. Now is the time to speak up.