Representatives from White River Planning and Development District met with officials at a public meeting Jan. 25 in the Fulton County Courthouse with the topic at hand being the possibility of expansion of the present Fulton County water system at a projected cost of approximately $2,237,567.
Mitzi Hargan and Lynn Haas from WRPDD gave an overview of how the project would be funded. The project, if it gets off the ground, would be identified as Phase III of the Fulton County Water Association.
The proposed project would include a new water supply well approximately four miles south of Salem on Highway 9 at the site of the existing storage tank.
Bob Threet of Blaylock, Threet Engineers Inc. of Little Rock explained where the expansion would take place and the projected time frame for acquiring the funding.
Threet said the expansion would add over 54 miles of line and would make the rural water system available to approximately 230 more homes.
The project would tie into the city of Viola water system and provide a tie to the city of Oxford. The system is already tied to the cities of Salem and Ash Flat. These ties permit water to be delivered to the towns in case of a disaster or emergency.
According to Threet, the proposed line extension would be on Highway 223 south of Viola to Mitchell. It would tie into the existing line at Mitchell and follow Highway 223 to Bexar then go east on the county road to Union, where it would again tie into the existing line. An extension into the Morriston area is included along with additional lines being added in the Saddle area and on French Town Road.
According to documents supplied by WRPDD, the present source of water used in the service area is private wells. The wells used for domestic service have a history of being poor in quality. The water in the upper strata wells, which are used by most of those homes, is hard and highly mineralized, making it unsuitable unless a softener and iron removal unit is maintained. In addition to poor quality, in areas where the homes are very close together, another problem exists from malfunctioning absorption fields. Very few home-owned wells are properly sealed to prevent entrance of surface pollution, the report stated.
Fulton County Water Association is a rural water system with over 80 miles of existing lines, delivering water to over 500 homes in Fulton County. The association is made up of six board members from different areas of the county and operates under a management contract with North Arkansas Electric Cooperative.
According to Hargan, a request will be made for funding from the USDA. She said it takes two to three funding sources to make a project of this size work. Grants would be applied for and loan applications would be made in hopes of funding the expansion.
Hargan said this was an opportunity to try to get funding. She said, "I can't promise you this will be funded." She added that obtaining grant money is very competitive.
Guidelines state it would be necessary to obtain water well samples. About 75 percent of those samples would have to be labeled unsafe for this project. WRPDD will not know until July if the first phase of this project will pass.
According to Hargan, there are funds available for connection fees for low income families. Threet said this is purely volunteer; no property taxes are involved. He added that residents are not obligated unless they hook onto the system. Once hooked up to the system an individual is required to pay at least the minimum monthly bill for three years due to the cost of operation and maintenance fees involved.
According to WRPDD's report, in Phase II of this expansion residents pay $19.50 for the first 1,000 gallons use of water, the next 4,000 gallons is $4.25 per 1,000 gallons, the next 5,000 gallons is $2.50 per 1,000 gallons, and over 10,000 gallons is $2 per 1,000 gallons. The use of 4,000 gallons under Phase II's plan would result in a monthly water bill of $32.50 plus tax. It is recommended that the same rates be used on Phase III.
Those in attendance included state Sen. Paul Miller of Melbourne, state Rep. Boyd Hickinbotham of Salem, Viola Mayor Jackie Estes, and Fulton County Judge Curren Everett. Also present were Randall Tyler of the U.S. Department of Rural Services, David Curtis, county director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, Kenny McCullough of the FSA Ag Credit Agency, and local JPs Bob Russell, Jim Bicker and Cris Newberry. Jerry Estes and Sherry Jackson of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative and several citizens were also in attendance.