After years of trying to secure funding, the Carroll County Public Service Authority (PSA) will finally be able to turn the faucets on the Coon Ridge Water Project.
During a special called meeting of the PSA Thursday at Dalton Hill Christian Church, the Authority announced to a packed house that it has secured a loan of $2,227,000 from USDA Rural Development and a grant of $900,000 that will be used to provide public water to the Coon Ridge section of Carroll County.
“You had a lot of patience with us trying to get information about the project. It was about the same time our stimulus dollars (that were used to fund similar PSA projects in Carroll County) were depleted that the Coon Ridge Project was requested for funding, but it didn’t happen,” Carroll County PSA Chairman Tom Littrell told residents at the meeting. “I am pleased to announce funding has come through and the project will be 74,300 linear feet of 8-inch and smaller water lines with approximately 250 users, bringing the PSA to almost 5,000 users in the county.”
Littrell explained that the total project cost will be $3,277,000. On the $2.2 million loan, he said the county would be getting a 2-percent rate for 40 years, the lowest long-term borrowing rate Carroll County has ever had. That would make Carroll’s monthly payment about $7,000 a month, he said, which would be covered by user fees. Construction will begin in the Spring of 2013 and be completed by the end of 2013, Littrell said.
While Littrell’s announcement drew a large round of applause from the crowd at Dalton Hill Christian Church, not everybody was happy with the project. Before Littrell announced the project had been funded, the PSA took comments from citizens about the Coon Ridge Water Project, including a few dissenters.
PSA member Sam Dickson began the comment section by reading a letter from Carl and Sandy Davis. The couple told how people from Coon Ridge have had to deal with iron in their water since the beginning of time.
“There was so much iron in the water of our community well that when we were growing up up we had to catch rain water from the roof of the house to bathe and wash clothes,” the Davises wrote. “Running water had a different meaning to us. The iron in the water situation is no better now than it was then.”
Many people in the area have tried to take care of the problem with iron filters, which are very costly and seldom efficient, they wrote. Others, not by choice, have just had to accept dirty water. The Davises also wrote that a small number of people in the community have had the good fortune of not having iron in their water.
“We just ask our neighbors that object to the Coon Ridge Water Project to be good neighbors and help the large number of us that have bad water to join in support of the Coon Ridge Water Project,” the couple concluded.
PSA member Jeanette Dalton then read a letter from Ollie Staples, who stated her family spends $70-$80 per month on salts, plus a filter that costs an extra $30 the first month.
“It stains unbelievable. We would appreciate to have water,” Staples wrote. “It also smells like rotten eggs and sulfur. We can’t drink the water.”
Christine Bolen said she’s had many more water problems since the PSA’s last meeting in Coon Ridge. She has terrible iron in her water and she’s had to replace the plumbing and commodes.
“We desperately need water. I know some people here don’t. You are lucky and I am glad for you, but please be a good neighbor and let it help those of us who need it,” Bolen said. “If we put our houses up for sale, we will have to have good water.”
Barbara Conklin then presented a petition to the PSA signed by 52 people. She said they were not against the waterline, but were opposed to mandatory non-user fees.
“Many can’t afford this and are on fixed incomes, Social Security, and bring in less than $1,000 per month,” she said.
Earl Conklin followed and said if it weren’t for the Salem VA Hospital, he wouldn’t be around much longer with his source of income, Social Security.
“I’m 78 and basically I do have good water,” he said. “The only thing I’m against is that we will have to pay. Not that I’m against (water), just paying non-user fees for services I don’t want.”
Elden Horton said he’s not opposed to those who want water, but he is very much opposed to paying a fee without getting water.
“I think it is stealing. No way you cut it, it is stealing from people who don’t want the water,” Horton said. “It is the second most polluted river in the U.S. The water is terrible and has to be treated and I don’t want it for my system.”
Bill Cochran said he’s lived in Coon Ridge all of his life. Until 20 years ago, he said he was a plumber and electrician.
“I’m sure that river may be polluted, but not any more than some of these wells that I have seen that the water will dissolve copper pipes. That can’t be too good either,” Cochran said. “We really need the water.”
Donnie Robinson said he also has iron in his water. He said his brother can’t wash his clothes and has to go to the laundromat. He thought the fee seemed reasonable, but said sewage is also a major concern for Coon Ridge residents.
After the PSA passed a resolution to accept the loan, Littrell told the crowd that approximately 60 percent of the residents in the project area have already signed up. He encouraged those who hadn’t already signed up to do so Thursday night, although he said anybody that signs up before the project is completed will have the $1,250 connection fee waived.
PSA member James Light said he understood where those people that signed the petition against the non-user fees were coming from. Nobody wants an extra bill, but he said the non-user fee is just $24 a month regardless if you don’t use any water of if you use up to 2,000 gallons.
“The county is going to pay for the hookup fee for those who sign up. I understand those that don’t want it, nobody wants another bill, but it gets water going to you if you just sign up,” Light said. “Even if you just want a spigot outside, it costs the same and could end up helping you instead of fighting it.”
Authority members were asked what about the citizens who couldn’t afford to pay the meter fee. PSA member David Hutchins said to check with the PSA staff because assistance is available in some cases.
Congressman Morgan Griffith sent a statement Thursday praising Carroll County leaders for their hard work in making the Coon Ridge Water Project a reality.
“I want to congratulate Carroll County on securing this funding. Ensuring that we all have clean water is obviously a basic need that must be met,” Griffith said. “I want to commend the hardworking officials in Carroll County and at the USDA that helped secure this funding.”