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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Water Authority fishing for more customers to connect to new system

July 13th, 2011 12:13 am by John Thompson

ELIZABETHTON — The Watauga River Regional Water Authority announced during its meeting Tuesday that it is looking for more customers in the Fish Springs and Little Milligan area to connect to the water system it is developing.
The project was first conceived 10 years ago with approximately 200 customers who signed contracts that committed them to purchase a minimum amount of water per month. Tap fees were waived for those customers.
Those customers have had to wait a long time for the promised water to arrive, as the water authority first tried to get the Hampton Utility District and then the Elizabethton Water Department to extend their water lines from Hampton Springs to the Fish Springs and Little Milligan communities.
The water authority finally took matters into its own hands and developed a deep well in the Fish Springs area to provide water for the communities. The long-awaited water lines began to be put in the ground last year.
The pipe laying gave residents renewed hope that they would finally be getting public water to replace their undependable private sources. The water authority started seeing an increased demand to become customers from residents who had not already signed the contracts.
In response, the board of directors of the water authority decided it was in the best interest of all the customers of the new utility to broaden the base as much as possible. The board authorized a new round of contract sign-ups for those who missed the first opportunity.
Residents of Fish Springs and Little Milligan who live near one of the new water mains are eligible to sign a contract for the service. The prospective customers would not have to pay for a tap fee. The minimum monthly bill would be $40 per month for a minimum usage of 5,000 gallons. The contract is for a three-year period.
In addition to satisfying the new demands, the directors said the additional customers would help keep bills lower in the future.
Any resident who lives near the new water mains in Little Milligan and Fish Springs who wishes to participate should call Amber Arnett at 542-2400. The deadline for submitting a contract is Nov. 30.
In other matters, Gary Tysinger of the Tysinger, Hampton and Partners engineering firm said the second phase of the Little Milligan-Fish Springs project is awaiting the issuance of already promised state funding before the phase can start. He said there was no time frame on when the funding would be available, but the project is at the top of the list.
Watauga River Regional Water Authority Chairman Johnny Mills responded by saying “government bureaucracies loose touch with the reality of people running out of water. This project is a wonderful example of how the government cannot do as good a job as private enterprise.”
He said it saddened him that those responsible for releasing the grants continued to refer the matter to yet another committee while more people saw their wells go dry.
The water authority was experiencing a similar problem with its project to build a new water plant at Wilbur Lake. With the project nearing completion, the water authority is still waiting on the remaining $1.2 million from an Environmental Protection Agency grant and also awaiting the sale of $5 million in bonds.
Construction on the water plant is now 80 percent complete. Project engineer Doug Unger of Jacobs Engineering said the skin of the building and the roof are complete. He said the pumps have been installed and the raw and finished water piping is complete.
One problem Unger said will cause a delay is the discovery of a layer of sand under the area where the raw water pump station sits on the edge of Wilbur Lake. It is expected to be completed by May 31.
The time when the water plant is expected to start pumping water will probably move back from the end of September to the end of November because of equipment delivery delays.

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