Mingo Junction's municipal budget is about two-thirds what it was a year ago. Employees have been laid off. Police officers and firefighters have agreed to pay cuts. If health care costs go up or revenue estimates prove faulty, the budget will be wrecked.
Village officials - and, again, employees - have worked hard during the past few years to keep Mingo Junction afloat. Last year's bankruptcy declaration by RG Steel was the straw that broke the camel's back, plunging municipal government into truly dire fiscal straits.
As if all the village's many woes were not enough, there is the looming challenge of paying off bonds used to finance the municipal water plant, built at a time when the steel mill was a major customer. Village Clerk John Angelica told council members this week it is not expected Mingo Junction will have enough money to make two $280,000 bond payments due next year.
Acting Village Administrator Howard Armstrong noted there appears to be a serious problem with the village water system. He explained that while about 90 million gallons of treated water are being produced each quarter, bills covering only 17 million gallons are being sent out.
Obviously, the enormous gap between water production and the amount being paid for represents a substantial financial loss for the village. Step one in addressing it is to double-check the figures, Armstrong said Tuesday. Step two may be to have the water system checked for any major leaks.
Clearly, council members should invest the money, about $800 a week, to check the system for leaks. If major ones are found - and that seems likely, given Armstrong's numbers - the village should invest in repairs.
That may cost a substantial amount of money, which Mingo Junction simply does not have. If it is determined major repairs are needed, emergency assistance should be sought from the state. If such aid is sought, state officials should provide it quickly.