It will be interesting to see how much effort Mayor Brian Arrigo and City Council members put this year into ending Revere’s water pipe breaks. It seems like a break has occurred every month since last December, forcing the city to shut off water service for varied time durations and inconvenience residents.
To the city’s credit, Public Works crews responded quickly to breaks, including a major one downtown in February, and pushed to get repairs completed. But the frequency of breaks and the nuisance involved for residents points to a significant problem requiring a well thought-out solution.
Arrigo knows the tools he needs to run an efficient city department. He claims his administration has been successful in reducing wasteful spending and has “rooted out systemic abuses,” including overtime that didn’t need to be paid and city spending unregulated by financial oversight.
He has taken aim at past city spending practices and said millions of dollars were spent on major projects without proper planning and budget calculations. The Arrigo administration used a state grant to contract with the University of Massachusetts to assemble what Arrigo called “a realistic list of long-deferred projects.”
By late May or early June, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office, a five-year capital plan for undertaking major investments aimed at improving the city will be unveiled.
The statement lists upgrading City Hall technology and street and sidewalk repairs as some of the items to be included in the plan. Water pipe repairs should be on the list, beginning with Suffolk Avenue and the section of Broadway where businesses and residents endured a major break Feb. 22.
It is easy to say water pipe breaks are to be expected during cold weather months. But that explanation does not offer much in the way of assurance for local property tax and water and sewer ratepayers who have to go hours without service.
Revere faces several challenges in undertaking major water pipe repairs. Like most older cities, it has an aging pipe network. A major section of the city is hilly, providing additional expensive challenges to repair planners.
Replacing water pipes is not the type of municipal service initiative that captures the public imagination. The city’s water service system is out of sight and, by definition, out of mind until a break inconveniences residents.
Replacing pipes means tearing up streets, disrupting traffic and water service, and prioritizing pipe repairs over more eye-catching projects like fixing up schools or buying new public safety equipment.
Spruced-up parks put smiles on kids’ faces and shiny fire trucks are a great photo opportunity. Torn up streets and mud-covered pipes tend to make people gripe and grumble.
But Arrigo has already staked his claim to being a progressive mayor and he wants to build on it by fixing up Revere. It’s a worthy goal and a smart one for a mayor who wants to get reelected, and Arrigo will be wise to remember to include water pipe replacement on the to-do list.