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Rural Water expansion plan in jeopardy

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

(Photo)
Last summer, there was great interest as the Fulton County Water Authority explained a plan to extend 43 miles of new water lines to rural neighborhoods. But not enough people have signed on as customers. The authority needs about 100 more sign ups to qualify for the government grants and loan it needs to begin construction.
"We are at the point where we need support. People should not wait if they intend to take water from us."

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.


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lets get real.

the new water expansion is going to stop at our place.

do i want to get involved? no way.

why?

nothing has been said as to the price per gallon that we will be charged. just that the average bill is $40. get real.

most farms go through tons of water. we go through about 400 gallons a day. somehow i think my bill will be more than $40.

the project wants $250 just to sign up. i think my monthly bill will be about $200, well thats $2,600 just in the first year i'm out for city water.

hell, i could drill a new well for that price.

we have a 350 foot well right now that pumps clean water, and it costs me around $30 a month in electricity to pump 400 gallons a day.

a more reliable water supply? hardly.

after the last ice storm we installed a back up generator on a double throw switch, so we can still power everything. how many times have we heard " boil your water" from the cities around here.

increase your property value? get real.

property values have went down, and they are harder than hell to sell as it is.

cheaper home insurance? i doubt that.

we pay $1,100 a year right now, and that covers everything. how can it get any cheaper?

oh, the camp fire department can pump water off the city line. is this going to help them put out fires faster? no way. the last 6 house i've seen burn in the camp area burned to the ground anyway, they couldn't get them out.

and they want to tear up our road for a month to put the line in, what a hassel that will be.

sound like just what i need, a bigger bill to pay the electric company to have " better water

' that comes from the same water supply as my wells now.

nothing has been said as to wether or not folks will have to shut down the wells they have if they get the city water.

as to the folks that are having well problems, well, you should have looked into how the well was doing before you bought the place to begin with.

-- Posted by sentinel on Sun, Jan 9, 2011, at 10:13 AM


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