OP-ED: Short-term inconvenience vs. long-term improvement

Infrastructure upgrades continue on the city’s west side. (Amy Leonard)

In January of last year, Governor Kay Ivey awarded $18.2 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to fund infrastructure improvements and upgrades all over the state. The grant gives local governments the ability to provide water service to homes, repair roads, upgrade sewer and storm drainage systems and more.  

Two projects in Cullman were funded out of the $18.2 million awarded last year. The first was for drainage improvements and road resurfacing on County Road 18 near Bremen. The second was for street and drainage improvements on Warnke Road, my street for the past 10 years, on the city’s west side.  

The good 

The infrastructure upgrades underway are proactive and can be seen as preventative medicine. Our city is turning 150 years old this year, and while working on water and sewage lines might not be as glamorous as the Christmas Tree Lighting in Depot Park each December, it’s necessary and needed. A quick call to Cullman City Hall revealed that the pipes that are being replaced along my road have been in use since the 1940s-50s. At 70-80 years old, the water, sewage and storm water drainage systems are on borrowed time. 

Jackson, Mississippi is just one of many cities facing a water crisis after a system failure five months ago. As crews work diligently to replace the pipe system, families will be faced with water outages during the next 10 years. 

Hinds County Administrator Kenneth Jones said of the situation in an interview with Fox News, “Every move you make to try to alleviate this problem causes pressure to go in another direction. And, when it gets to one direction, there are old pipes, or the water main breaks. And, when the water mains start to break, it shifts pressure everywhere. It’s especially hard on our businesses.” 

I cannot fathom what it would be like to live without clean running water such as the residents in Jackson or in Flint, Michigan. It sounds like such a preposterous situation in a country of great affluence. I don’t even want to allow my imagination to consider the horrors of living with a sewage system failure.  

As a homeowner, the prospect of the value of my home increased without me having to make an investment is a good deal in my book. Improved and updated infrastructure and new roads increase property value. That’s good math. 

People are FINALLY, for the most part, respecting the 25 mph speed limit on Warnke Road. Personally, I’d rather leave the potholes than live with the careless speeders who are historically on parade at 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. But the City maintains that it will be resurfacing the road once the pipework is completed, so the speed demons will be back and I can’t get approval for spike strips. I’ll still help them when they land in the ditch with their phone in hand and kids crying in the backseat. 

The bad 

For the past two months and for the near future, my car has been and will be dirty. Occasionally, always with prior notification, I’m without water for a few hours. I’m tasked with finding creative routes home. In summation, I’m inconvenienced.  

The ugly 

I have had a front seat to witness the rudeness and temper tantrums of grown people who view their inconveniences as a modern day tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. I don’t know about y’all’s upbringing but I’m almost 50 years old and still live with a healthy fear of my family elders. Yes, they have passed and yes I am still scared that they would snatch me up from the great beyond and tie a knot in my tail if I acted with such foolishness. Maybe it’s because I’m from a blue collar family and was taught to respect. Full stop. I was taught to respect.  

The men who have been working in the cold and rain this winter on my road have been nothing but courteous, respectful and accommodating to me. They don’t know me from Adam’s housecat yet are always willing to stop what they’re doing to move vehicles and equipment to accommodate my schedule. They always apologize for the inconvenience. That part just kills me. They are out here busting their tails to provide improved services to me, my family and my home and they apologize to me for inconveniencing me.  

Gentlemen, thank you. Thank you for taking care of the dirty work that provides us with clean drinking water, sewage pipes and roads. Thank you for your patience in dealing with reporters who keep odd working hours and come and go many times a day. Thank you for your service to our city. Thank you.