The Clay County Water Authority Board met Thursday, March 2, 2017. The main topic of discussion in this meeting was the almost 10-million dollar water project that would hopefully bring water to approximately 1000 households within Clay County, although the goal sign-ups seem to be falling far short. This expansion will be possible through a USDA grant, of which only 60% would have to be paid back. The source of funds for this project are as follows:
- 3,779,000 USDA grant funds
- 6, 051,000 loan
- 1, 140,070 Water tap fees generated by charging a new service area
The USDA grant will not cover the cost of meter and tap fees and does not cover running lines to the homes. The length of the project will take place over a 2-year period. A rough count of over 800 signatures have been received thus far, but this figure could be due to several duplicate forms sent in. And with the March 10th deadline quickly approaching, it doesn’t appear the expansion will be quite as large as originally anticipated. The Clay County Water Authority has already paid out approximately 203,000 out of pocket expenses to date, through various sources trying to meet their expected new customer goal, including engineer fees, advertising, and mail-out letters to date getting ready for this water grant.
There were several citizens present for this meeting, who lived on White Plains Rd, a well-populated road, that were interested in obtaining city water, but felt the tap fees were too expensive. The cost of the tap fees is $750 for short side connection and $1500 for long side, depending on which side of the road the pipe is ran. To help cushion the cost of the tie-in, the CCWA has offered to prorate these fees for any new customer over a period of 12 months. This cost broken down over the 12 months would be $62.50 per month for the 750 tie-in or $125.00 for $1500 for long.
District 1 Commissioner Bennie Morrison made an inquiry as to how the CCWA had arrived at these cost figures and was informed by Secretary Myra Character that this was the actual price they paid and had been for a number of years. “We don’t have a maintenance staff, so we contract this out and so far, it’s been cost effective’, said CCWA Superintendent Wayne Character. Morrison recalled the cost of the tie-ins when the Shinbone water project took place as being much more reasonable, but Water Board Member Kermit Caldwell informed him this project was done through a different type grant.
Caldwell sympathized with those present, who were there seeking city water and answers, and explained: “We really don’t have any control over this cost. The water authority does not have the money to hire contractors to put these taps in. We would like to see everybody in Clay County who wants or needs water to get it and want to provide water to everyone as economically as we can to everyone who wants it. We did consider this when we agreed to prorate the tap fees over a 12- month period. It costs money to run those lines and It’s not economically feasible to run these lines unless you have the customer base to help pay for this. Almost a 10 million grant and we have to pay about 60% of this back to USDA. The water authority will have to gain new customers to pay for this bill because we are going to have several million dollars we will be responsible for paying back.
“I understand fully where you’re coming from”, Caldwell continued addressing those present, ” But we are also under rules and regulations of the USDA that we have to comply with for this loan and our hands are tied. The Water Authority can’t afford to pay these tap fees and we wish we could. When you obligate yourself to over 6 million dollars, someone’s got to pay the fiddler.”
Morrison went on to say that he didn’t feel they would ever get the amount of new customers they needed to make this project work because of people were just not going to pay the tie-in fees because they were too high. “These folks are just not going to sign up with the way the way the cost is now and with the amount of people we need to make this grant work, it’s just not going to happen. Even if we got a 1000 sign ups, they would be scattered so remotely throughout the county that it would not be economically feasible.”
Morrison did, however mention meeting with Lake Gerald residents in the Delta area about this matter and this area would not only be ideal, but very cost effective to run these lines.
Morrison also cautioned the Water Board to remove the Commission Office as a point of contact on this subject, because the county Office personnel had fielded many calls on this matter.
If the number of sign ups fall short of the 1,000 goal, the amount of the grant will be shortened, and all of these figures will change. This money has been set aside by the USDA and they are awaiting a head count. The Engineer present working this project said they would take all of applicants they had and enter them into GS system and redesign to reflect those who have signed up (customer interest). Even if you signed up, you won’t be guaranteed city water unless a customer crew comes by your house and puts a water line in.”
The deadline is March 10 for the prorated tap fees for who wish to sign up for county water.