Failing infrastructure needs funding
The residents of Milton recently agreed to pay for major upgrades to the town water system. Meanwhile, in Lewes, citizens are reporting discolored water that the city has blamed on aging infrastructure. In Dewey Beach, work is expected to begin this fall on a project to reduce flooding and clean up stormwater runoff into Rehoboth Bay.
In Rehoboth Beach, officials say two pumps designed to pump dirty stormwater into the wastewater system have not been working, perhaps for two years.
That's not to mention reports of contaminated public drinking water in Blades or numerous reports of contaminated private wells in locations all around Millsboro.
Safe drinking water and properly discharged stormwater are basic infrastructure that citizens expect their government to regulate and provide.
Yet across our region, it is clear essential infrastructure is failing or near failing and in need of significant upgrades.
At the same time, new homes and major new communities are bringing even more new users to our region. This influx of new users will only add to our growing infrastructure fatigue.
Our region's low property taxes and our beaches are prime reasons people move here. But as increasing population strains our infrastructure, municipal, county and state governments must strike a balance.
One tool is to establish an adequate public facilities ordinance that could be tied to impact fees – fees that require developers to offset the cost of adding new users to varied infrastructure systems.
Impact fees are one way to raise funds. There are others, including a property tax increase – but in 2014, when Gov. Jack Markell proposed a tax increase to clean up state waterways, the idea got absolutely no traction at Legislative Hall.
In the four years since, Sussex has continued to lead the state in growth. That growth and local infrastructure are clearly on a collision course.
The road we've been kicking this can down is now at a dead end.