One of the most important things we do as a council is set aside money in the budget each year for infrastructure improvements.
It isn’t easy. The cost of upgrading or repairing infrastructure is extremely high, and often the result is not noticeable to most citizens. But committing to infrastructure improvement is paramount to the future of Camden.
Camden’s greatest asset -- our history -- creates our greatest problem. Many of our water, sewer and stormwater lines are extremely old, our sewer plant has to be replaced, and many of our roads are crumbling.
That’s why this council has committed to incrementally upgrading our town’s infrastructure to ensure we are able to provide good streets to drive on and dependable utility services.
As you may know, the city does not own many of the roads in Camden. If a road that we don’t own has problems, all we can do is urge the Department of Transportation to make repairs.
That being said, this year we budgeted $315,000 to pave some of our oldest, most damaged roads. Nice roads provide safe travel for our citizens, and they show visitors to our community that we care about the upkeep of Camden.
While we can pave some of our roads, many of our roads are above water, sewer and stormwater lines that need to be rehabilitated or replaced. There is no sense in repaving a road if we will soon have to tear it up, fix a problem beneath it, and pave it again.
To solve that problem, we have persistently gone after grant funding for water and sewer line rehabilitation. These projects aren’t very attractive or exciting, but they are critical to our community.
When water or sewer lines aren’t functioning smoothly, we are forced to constantly inconvenience citizens and spend unnecessary money repairing leaks, cracks and blockages. Service is interrupted, and staff time is spent repairing problems that can be avoided by proactive thinking on the part of staff and council.
The summer storms have often shown how vulnerable our above-ground electric lines can be to wind damage or falling tree limbs. To avoid that in the future, we have committed to completing multiple major undergrounding projects this fiscal year. Moving as many of our lines as possible underground allows us to provide a more stable electric service and also remove many of the aging poles that clutter our sidewalks and streets.
The area surrounding our downtown will be particularly impacted by these projects. Removing many of the overhead lines will place the emphasis of our skyline back on our historic buildings and sacred, old trees. It will create a more inviting atmosphere that better showcases the beauty of Camden.
Because of the high cost of virtually any work done to improve infrastructure, we can’t afford to fix all of our problems at once. But what we refuse to do is ignore the problem like many small towns in the south have done.
We will not let the age of our infrastructure become a detriment to the quality of life of our citizens and ratepayers. It’s not easy to budget large sums of money to projects that people can’t see and touch, but I’m committed to making sure the quality of our infrastructure reflects the quality of our people.
The people of Camden deserve top-notch services, and as a council we are making decisions now that will ensure they get those services for generations to come.