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Wellsville should not be left holding the bag

April 6, 2011
Morning Journal News

While the village of Wellsville did, in fact, agree 75 years ago to take on responsibility for maintaining its flood system, maybe it's time for the federal government to take another look at that agreement.

When the flood system was built after the 1936 flood, the country was in the depths of the Great Depression and no one had any money, but it was brand new, its construction created jobs, and the thought of repairs was probably far in the backs of the minds of city fathers.

At that time, officials were most likely more than willing to accept the financial responsibility rather than face another devastating flood.

In the intervening years, industry and prosperity have waxed and waned, all the while the flood system aged.

Ultimately, loss of jobs meant loss of population and the city reverted to village status, with the resulting decrease in tax revenue, and still the flood system grew older.

And, while the Army Corps of Engineers routinely inspected the system and made recommendations, Corps officials admitted this week that, perhaps, they had been "too nice" to the village, not offering up the brutal facts of the matter: The system was beginning to deteriorate to the point of no return, or at least no return without paying out big bucks.

Granted, the village is responsible for the maintenance, and knew there were problems, but shouldn't the Corps have been more up-front with its assessments? Sugar-coating the facts apparently kept village officials from realizing the seriousness of the problem while putting citizens at risk.

Perhaps village officials (and, earlier, city officials) would have been more diligent about setting aside money for maintenance - even placing larger levies before voters - had the Corps been more adamant about the scope of the problems.

Sometimes, being a "nice guy" isn't the best thing. Sometimes, being the "bad guy" and handing out the facts - even unwelcome ones - is just what the doctor ordered.

Now, the village is strapped with the astronomical cost of repairs, and citizens are facing high flood insurance costs while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sits back and says, "Guess we should have been meaner. Oh, and by the way, there's no funding for these mandated repairs."

Chief Bill Smith has spent months trying to get federal officials to hear his plea for funding, to no avail.

We think the federal government should take some financial responsibility for this situation, and citizens should be contacting their congressman demanding that.



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