The story of the broken Pinellas water main that inconvenienced thousands of residents over Christmas has a predictable ending. The county knew the pipe was compromised, gambled on waiting to fix it — and lost. It is a cautionary reminder of the consequences of putting off repairs to save money.
For a decade, Pinellas officials knew the water pipe running under Belcher Road was at risk of breaking because of well-documented design flaws. It spent nearly $2 million in repairs on the pipe over the last seven years and hoped for the best even as Hillsborough County and St. Petersburg long ago replaced similar pipes manufactured by the same company. Even after Pinellas decided in 2005 to replace the pipe, years went by without any construction.
Finally scheduled for replacement in 2009, the $10 million project was delayed again in the midst of the economic recession and significant spending cuts. County officials hoped to get through another year, and they didn't quite make it. Work on the project began in June but could not prevent the blowout. The result: Thousands of residents had to go without drinking water over the holidays.
These are the consequences of procrastination, declining tax revenue and spending cuts facing all local governments. The next time, the results might be more serious than a broken water pipe and road detours.