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Bingen's Gallant Move

Editorial for July 11

City government doesn't get much more considerate than the example provided by the mayor and members of the Bingen City Council last week.

In a decision as generous as it is progressive, the council voted unanimously to cover the entire cost of moving utility wires in the downtown business district underground -- rather than ask building owners to contribute a portion. Originally, the city had planned to bill owners of the affected buildings for at least some of the cost to move the utilities as part of ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

Costs to remove the wires could have been passed on, in whole or in part, to businesses and building owners in the affected downtown core. Those costs ranged from a low of $1,861 for the All Sports Building to a high of nearly $12,000 for Mansfield's and the Winery Building.

However, City Council members and Mayor Brian Prigel discussed the proposal at length and came to a basic consensus: Given the economic difficulties facing many downtown businesses, the city did not wish to add any further burden. At that point, there was unanimous agreement that -- even though downtown building owners and businesses would also benefit from the utility work -- the city would foot the bill, which totals approximately $141,000.

Obviously, that's not small change, and the city would have been well within its rights to spread the burden around.

Throughout the city of Bingen's efforts to improve the look and feel of its downtown district, one key focus has been on making the area more inviting, in part through creating a more attractive atmosphere for strolling and shopping. Removing the wires is just one part of that overall endeavor.

Who will benefit from the revitalization efforts? Almost everyone who works in, lives in, or visits Bingen. Business owners can expect to see increased pedestrian traffic, which should improve retail sales. Visitors and residents will find a more appealing, nurturing, friendly downtown. The city will realize additional tax revenues through increased business activity. In essence, Bingen's quality of life will be better.

Despite the fact that Bingen's business owners and building owners will share in the benefits from the city's ongoing improvements, it is noteworthy that Bingen's leaders decided to pay virtually all the up-front costs in this latest phase.

This was a chivalrous decision, and the mayor and council members deserve a huge expression of thanks.

JB

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