That is how project coordinator Jerry Estes describes the status of the Fulton County Water Authority's latest plan to extend water lines to more rural areas of the county.
Without more people signing up for service, the project may have to be put on hold or scaled back.
"We are in a good position to obtain funding, but we need more people to sign up," Estes explained. "We need to be ready when they (government agencies) are ready."
Last July, the Water Authority proposed a $2.4 million project to run 43 miles of new water lines to serve around 340 households.
The project would extend water service to areas between Salem and Viola, run north to Sturkie, east to Highway 395 and extend back toward Salem and the Camp area.
"Some people are really in need of the water lines," said Estes. "Many people with bad wells have to change water filters frequently because of sediment. One lady who signed up has a bad well, can't afford a new one and is hauling water to her home."
The problem is, only about 130 customers in the project area have signed up for service. About 250 new customers are needed to obtain the loans and grants that will pay most of the construction cost.
"People who need the water service should not wait. They need to contact us and get their name down. They need to contact their neighbors and try to get them to sign up," said Estes.
The Water Authority has been informed that funding for the rural water project will be available in the first and second quarters of the year. Fulton County's application for a construction loan will likely be approved, because there are fewer cities and towns competing for loans in the next funding cycle.
"If we are not ready because we don't have enough customers signed up, we will not get approval and go to the bottom of the pile," said Estes.
The Water Authority needs to sign up about 75 percent of homes in the project area to show the USDA that it has enough customers to meet payments on a loan.
The authority recently mailed questionnaires to residents in the project area. It is seeking information about income levels in the area. If the survey shows most residents have low to moderate incomes, the project may quality for more grants, reducing the amount the authority will have to borrow.
"We are getting some of the surveys back, but we need all residents to return them, whether they intend to sign up or not. They can help us reduce the amount we will have to borrow," said Estes.
The Water Authority says a safe, reliable water supply is not the only benefit to having water service. Customers use less electricity, since they no longer have to run a water pump. Service is not interrupted when storms knock down power lines and water service improves property values.
"Water lines often reduce homeowners insurance rates in an area because they improve a fire department's ability to fight fires," added Estes. "We were told the Camp Fire Department currently has to fill its pumper trucks from a stream. Having a hydrant to use should lower the rates, lowering home insurance in that area."
If the Water Authority cannot, fairly quickly, sign up about 100 more customers in the project area, it may have to scale back its plan. It would take a close look at where customers who have signed up live and run lines where there is greatest support for service, dropping areas where fewer customers want the service.
Since it was formed in 1990, the Water Authority has finished three major projects, running 80 miles of water lines to the east and south of Salem. The Phase Four project seeks to expand service to western and northern areas of the county.
Original projections by the White River Planning District show that grants may pay up to 80% of the $2.4 million construction costs. A USDA loan would cover the remaining 20% percent.
About 1,000 customers currently pay an average bill of $40 a month. Those payments cover the debt service on past loans.
"We are in a great position for funding on this new project," said Estes. "Now, it is up to people it will serve to let us know whether they want it."
The North Arkansas Electric Co-op manages Water Authority operations. For information on the new water project, call NAEC at 895-3221.