Opinion Extra

Partin: Cayce infrastructure investment helps region

The city of Cayce and all of Lexington County are at a crossroads. In recent years, as businesses and residents have recognized all the area offers, we have experienced exponential growth. With that growth, we have an outstanding opportunity to transform ourselves into a major hub of life and commerce. But if we hope to move into the big leagues, we must be ready.

We celebrated an important step recently when the city of Cayce, town of Lexington and Lexington County Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission broke ground on a state-of-the-art, 25-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant. The new plant replaces an aging facility built four decades ago, and construction already is underway. It will serve a majority of Lexington County when it is completed in 2012.

The new plant will triple our water treatment capacity and provide a tremendous economic boost to the region. In the short term, the project will create 100 construction jobs, putting a lot of people to work at a time when jobs are sorely needed and using large amounts of resources from local suppliers.

In the long term, the project will lay a solid foundation for economic development in our community. Businesses and industry want to locate in a place with sound, reliable infrastructure where their needs will be met now and in the future. Simply put, they want to focus on productivity and profitability rather than having to think about such mundane details as wastewater. The advanced water treatment methods and high capacity of the new plant will help make Cayce and Lexington County extremely attractive to businesses looking for a place to grow, especially when combined with the area's other advantages.

Investment in water and sewer infrastructure yields positive returns, which is also good for our economy. According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, $1 of water and sewer infrastructure investment increases private output in the long-term by $6.35. The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that each additional dollar of revenue to local government from water and sewer system operation and maintenance increases economic output in all industries by $2.62.

Along with boosting our economy, the new plant is also central to maintaining the area's superb quality of life. This is a wonderful place to live, which is why we've experienced a surge in residential growth over the past few years. The action we are taking now will protect the area's water quality and ensure we can offer our citizens reliable services for years to come.

We also are constructing the new plant in a very cost-effective way, keeping the city on solid financial footing, which is good for quality of life. The new facility will cost $52.7 million, or about $2 per gallon. The average cost for wastewater treatment plant construction is about $6 per gallon. The city's bid from the general contractor was well below our original cost estimates.

Significantly, the new plant sets the stage for a regional approach as we tackle other growth challenges. This facility has been a true collaboration many years in the making. The city of Cayce, the town of Lexington and Lexington County have worked together for the good of our citizens. All have played an important role in moving this critical, forward-looking piece of infrastructure from the drawing board to reality.

This plant is an investment that will serve the people and businesses of this area well into the future. It is a symbol of a new Cayce, a city focused on smart growth that's strategic, progressive and pro-active. It's also a symbol for the entire Midlands of what can be accomplished with a spirit of regionalism and collaboration.