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County competes for water line grant

Last week, Mrs.

Saturday, August 21, 1999

Last week, Mrs. Hankins joined with dozens of White Oak Road residents to show state and county officials their drought-stricken area.

So did Ron Davis, Elizabeth Township trustee.

"The people who live out here have never been out of (well) water in 35 years," he said.

This year, Davis said they have their minds on two goals – new water lines and the grants that are supposed to build them.

The county applied more than a year ago for a Community Development Block Grant totaling $1 million, including local matching money, to install about 20 miles of water lines in and around the Elizabeth/Decatur area.

The grant is competitive with other Ohio communities, but grant writers are optimistic they can overcome recent obstacles.

"If we had the grant today, then there would be 60 days of environmental reviews, then permits," said Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

The CAO submitted the grant application on behalf of the county and Hecla Water Association.

Installing one water line is at least six months away unless approvals come quicker than expected, Kline said.

Ray Howard, president of Hecla Water, said the company must rely on some grant money for expensive water line installation.

And so many agencies – in Columbus and Washington, D.C., – have a say in grant approvals that red tape becomes a construction roadblock, he said.

For example, agencies awarding the Elizabeth/Decatur grant have required that some reports listing information about who the water lines will serve must be redone. Other times, easements or environmental impact studies can cause delays.

If it weren’t for those hurdles, then the entire county could have water lines in a short period of time, just using Hecla employees, Howard said.

So far, the state has asked for more information about the grant from the county, which is a good sign, Kline said.

And because the state now has seen the problem firsthand, county officials said they might have an edge.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency officials who were here will report to the governor, which might even help reduce red tape with grants, commissioner Paul Herrell said.

"If we could get assistance on the hang-up areas or walking through some of the permits, it would help," Kline said.

The Hecla grant also is ranked against other grants, so Lawrence County should get more points for unhealthy water conditions because of the drought, Kline added.

The grant already seeks points for the damage the 1997 flood inflicted on the Decatur area’s water table, he said.

If the state approves the grant, water could flow to 254 homes on Lewis Fork, Turkey Fork, Deloss Creek, parts of Ohio 93, Fox Hollow, Prickley Ash, White Oak and Sharps Creek.

Meanwhile, Hecla and Ironton water sources are still helping townships like Elizabeth fill drinking water tanks. And the county is still distributing bottled water.

"But we need it in the ground," Davis said.