BUTLER — The costs may be higher than hoped and some feel there were promises that weren’t kept, but most of the people who attended Tuesday’s public meeting on the Little Milligan and Fish Springs Water project appeared satisfied.
Bryon Trantham, executive director of the Watauga River Regional Water Authority, led the discussion and gave details on the rate structure for the original customers and new customers. He also discussed the overall cost of the project.
Project engineer Gary Tysinger provided a chronological history of the project, with its long search for a water source that finally ended with the drilling of a deep well on the property of Frances Ward.
Trantham said those customers who originally signed a contract will have a total minimum bill of $50.90 a month that is guaranteed for three years. For customers who were not part of the original contract, the minimum monthly bill will be $74.49.
Trantham said that rate will change after the first three years. If the customer base remains at 176, the projected rate will be $74.49, but if more customers are added, the board would lower the rate. The projected rate for 200 customers would be $67.90. The rate for 300 customers would be $51.83. The rate for 400 customers would be $42.24. The rates are set based on the amount of money that is owed for financing the project. The cost of the project was $3.8 million. The water authority obtained grant money for some of the costs, but the total annual debt service will be $71,802.02.
Some of the people who attended the meeting expressed concerns about the cost of running a line from the meter to their home. They said the original understanding was that all of the original customers would have 400 feet of service line installed at no cost.
Despite the concern, community leader J.R. Campbell, the principal of Little Milligan Elementary School where the meeting was held, said he did not think it would be a concern.
“We are going to band together as a community and help those who need help putting it in,” Campbell said
Another woman, Betty McNeal, said she and her brother, Ray Vines, had been promised at the start that a line would run down Mockingbird Lane, where she has property she and her brother hope to develop into a subdivision. When the water lines were laid, she said Mockingbird was bypassed, meaning the property cannot be developed. She said the water authority and the county officials have ignored her pleas.
But most of the people at the meeting were pleased that they would soon have water at the turn of the tap, probably none more so than Ethel Whitehead. She said she lived on the dry side of the hill and her water source goes dry for six months out of the year. She must travel to the Smith Hollow Spring, where she gathers 40 gallons at a time to take home. She has been waiting for a decade for the project to be completed so that she will no longer have to perform the chore.
Campbell could sympathize with her, if to a lesser degree.
“I guess I have gotten up in the morning about 40 times this year and not had water,” Campbell said. “Sometimes I have had to take a muddy bath, but just look at my complexion and you can see how good mud is for it. I can tell you it will be wonderful to just turn on the faucet and not have to worry about whether the water is going to come out or not.”
Campbell said a ceremony should be held when the first water is supplied. He said the ceremony should honor God and also those community leaders who worked hard for the project but did not live to see its completion. He said those included Danny Duffield, who first started a petition to get public water, and Bill Finney, who worked tirelessly through all the difficult years.