County residents join together for water line project

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 16, 2001

Sometimes it takes even less than a village – it just takes several committed neighbors.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Sometimes it takes even less than a village – it just takes several committed neighbors.

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Residents of the McKinney Creek-Steel Trap area banded together this week, sought a meeting with the right officials and worked a deal that should end in clean drinking water next year.

The majority of about 14 residents wanting new Lawrence Water Corporation lines agreed to share the remaining cost of installation – even though it means some who qualified for financial grant assistance will make extra payments now.

More paperwork remains, but the project should move beyond its Dec. 18 deadline, officials at a Tuesday meeting said.

"We didn’t figure on getting it for free," resident Mark Leffingwell said. "We’re glad the board and everybody worked together, because we need the water."

Most residents haul their own or use poor quality water, and had expected the project to move forward early this fall, Leffingwell said.

The county commissioners provided the Township Roads 170 and 84N area and one other area with help to try and get a deal together to extend lines, using a federal Community Development Block Grant program, Ralph Kline of the CAO explained on behalf of the county.

To qualify for assistance, residents must meet income guidelines, Kline said. Those who don’t qualify for financial assistance must share the costs of the $42,000 project with the water company. (That could have been as much as $3,000 each.)

The water company doesn’t have the resources to put it in or it would have been done by now, said board member Jim Hayes, who was filling in as board president.

As it stands, the project money just puts the line in and the water in it, with no revenue for Lawrence Water, he said.

The board agreed the costs were high, but listened to residents who explained their situation and asked questions about alternatives – with much of the meeting focusing on reducing the final cost-share.

Residents and water company officials eventually came together on a unique compromise – all residents, regardless of income qualifications, will split the difference needed to finish the project.

That amount could be between $1,250 and $850 each depending on the total number of residents who qualify for grant assistance. (That number, and the expected cost-share payment, was expected Friday but was unavailable.)

Some complained that the cost was still hard to absorb, even for those whose incomes were higher, so the board agreed to extend the cost out over a period of time.

Although the project is not without critics – specifically among residents who say politicians promised the lines but didn’t follow through after the election – many residents at the meeting favored the cost-share idea because it improved the chances of it getting finished.

If four or five had to pay $3,000 or more, it might not happen, they said.

"But we want the water in there," Leffingwell said.

The board and grant writers needed an agreement to meet a Dec. 18 grant deadline. The board will work out details with each individual on monthly payments for the cost-share.