While downtown WF grows, so do concerns over infrastructure

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Downtown Wichita Falls continues to grow. But that's leading to a problem that could have major consequences. There's serious concern among city leaders about the area's infrastructure and whether it can handle more people.

The pipes underground in downtown are over 100-years-old. Those old pipes are being asked to consume more water and sewage with more restaurants and apartments.

Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana doesn't think the current infrastructure can hold with more growth until it's replaced.

How important is good infrastructure to Co-Owner of The Highlander Public House, Max Phieps?

"Water to cook with, plumbing, sewers for the bathroom, and for the garbage that comes out of the kitchen is all very critical," Phieps said.

Wichita Falls city leaders agree. That's why they are working to come up with a solution. Every year parts of the aging downtown infrastructure are addressed as part of the Capital Improvement Project. But more money is needed to make all those changes.

Mayor Santellana said they are not sure what will be done, but all options are on the table.

"They recognize the infrastructure is poor and there are needs to upgrade," downtown business owner, Vicki Milam said. "But I think that they're looking at that and will come up with a good plan. In the meantime, we will just continue to promote downtown and create new business opportunities."

Milam said infrastructure downtown is important, but so is economic development.

More businesses also mean more demand for connectivity. Phieps said one hurdle for him opening The Highlander was fixing their broadband issues.

"Commerce is dependent so much on the internet now," Phieps said. "We've got to have it. And there are providers in the area that are working with businesses and the city to get the upgraded plant downtown that's needed to get the higher speeds here."

City Director of Community Development Dana Schoening agrees. When asked if the city would consider proposals for a fiber optic line being run downtown, Schoening said if it meets their needs he thinks they would make it happen.

"As we see more growth coming, there's going to be the need for new and higher technological advances for our downtown," Milam said. "Because they are the oldest part and the centers of our community."

Phieps said the infrastructure inside the buildings he's in is an issue, particularly with pipes that are cracked or deteriorated. He said he's had to replace most of them inside every downtown buildings he owns.

However, Phieps feels the downtown infrastructure is in pretty good shape and believes the city is doing the best they can to stay on top of it.

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