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County asks water company for assistance

An Ohio American Water Company executive said he's willing to talk with local officials about extending water lines to unserved areas of Lawrence County, if it's financially feasible for the company to provide the water service.

"It's an economic decision for us," new executive John Hildabrant told the Lawrence County Commission. "We can't arbitrarily decide to extend water lines. It's not good business practice to pay an exorbitant amount of money to extend water lines to only a few people. We'll help as much as we can."

Commission President Jason Stephens told Hildabrant the county may be able to offset some of the water company's expenses.

"We do have access to tap fee assistance, if that's part of the calculation," he said.

Community Development Block Grant monies can be used to provide assistance to low-income homeowners in paying water tap fees.

"Sometimes we can be very innovative with funding," Commissioner George Patterson added. "The way I look at it, if we've got three people out of water, they're just as important as 5,000 if they need water."

Stephens told Hildabrant that some areas that have only a few homes now would open up for development if those areas had water service.

Hildabrant said he would be willing to discuss specific projects and "offer as much help as we can." He added that he is new to the area and will need to get more information about the affected areas.

The county officials sent a letter to Ohio American Water last month, asking that the company immediately extend water lines to areas of Big Branch, Charley Creek and Macedonia Roads.

About seventy homes in those areas are without water service and must rely on wells, cisterns or water haulers.

Some people have been waiting for years for water service, and live within a couple of miles of where water lines end. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune