Rural Water Not On Tap For Some
Posted: September 4, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.
Some residents of Miller Road, in southeast Washington County, may not get rural water despite having signed up and paid a tap fee more than two years ago, members of the Quorum Court County Services Committee were told Tuesday night.
The water lines for the $9 million rural water project come within a mile of George Miller’s house in one direction and seven-tenths of a mile in the other, but Miller and others in the area are now being told easements were not procured for the lines and not enough people signed on to make the line feasible.
“To stop that close and not make an effort to reach us, I’m just beside myself,” Miller told the committee members. “The only people on Miller Road that aren’t going to get water are the Millers.”
At least three families along the road, and perhaps more, bought taps when the project was floated more than three years ago. Officials said they’ll get their money refunded at the end of the project.
Wayne Blankenship, a grant administrator for the Rural Development Authority, told justices the project is ahead of schedule but the remaining money is already obligated.
Most of the areas to be served were determined when the project was bid in 2010, Blankenship said. There were not enough customers, four per mile is the rule of thumb, to justify that part of the project and easements are still not available. He said residents have to be committed and signed up on the front end in order to do a water project.
“We’re going to get as much water to as many people as we can, but we can’t promise anybody they’ll get water,” Blankenship said. “We’re doing everything feasible to get water to as many people as we can.”
Justice of the Peace Rex Bailey broached the subject, saying he’s gotten calls from residents who are just finding out they’re being left high and dry.
“I want to know why they can’t get water.” Bailey said. “This is the second time this has happened to some of these people. It troubles me that we can’t get water to Miller Road but we can get it to Madison County.”
Justice of the Peace Eva Madison said her impression was that everybody in the county would be able to get water if they wanted it.
What really upset Miller and others attending the committee meeting was how they found out water wasn’t coming, they were told by workers laying lines or neighbors about a month ago.
Committee members took Blankenship to task for not telling residents sooner.
“It would have been the decent thing in 2011 or 2012 to pick up the phone and tell them they’re not going to get water,” Justice of the Peace Candy Clark told Blankenship. “We knew that was not going to happen and didn’t bother to tell them anything. When you know, that is the time to call them, don’t wait until you get done with the project to tell people they’re not going to get water.”
Blankenship said residents still have not gotten official word and he does not want to tell anyone they’re out of luck until the project wraps up. Construction is expected to take about another month.
Justices of the peace got an estimate of how much it will cost to extend the line to the remaining residents on Miller Road, about $150,000 to go the remaining 1.2 to 1.5 miles, and said they would look for federal or state grants to pay for the project. The county paying for the line was shot down by several justices of the peace.
“We’ve got little pockets all over the county that don’t have water,” said Justice of the Peace Ann Harbison. “It will cost millions if we open that door of the county paying for it. We don’t have the money to do it.”
Harbison said the well is going dry on state and federal aid for water projects but urged officials to get the needed easements now so if the money does become available, those will be in place.
AT A GLANCE
County Computer Use Ordinance Delayed
The Washington County Services Committee tabled Tuesday a proposed ordinance pertaining to county employees’ use of computers, email and Internet security after several justices of the peace said they were concerned the police was too broad and may violate individuals’ rights.
John Adams, county computer director, said the proposal is needed to ensure employees do not abuse the system and to have in place ways to discipline those who violate county computer use policies, up to and including termination. Adams said the county also has an obligation to maintain the integrity of county data and records.
Justice of the Peace Eva Madison said several of the suggested policies, including monitoring and disclosing employee communications, border on violating employee’s privacy and free speech rights. Madison was also critical of provisions that could punish employees for passing on information that could potentially be embarrassing for the county and county officials.
The committee appointed a subcommittee to go over the proposed ordinance and come back with recommendations.
Source: Staff Report