Grant for Little Milligan water one step closer

Residents concerned about cost

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

One small step for man and one giant leap for Little Milligan and Fish Springs to get a constant, dependable source of water happened Thursday when a representative from the First Tennessee Development District held a public hearing in an effort to secure a Community Development Block Grant.
   "This is a project at Little Milligan for an Imminent Threat Grant. We're going after $500,000 to try and get those people some water. The project itself is about a $3.5 million project. Hopefully, when we get Rural Development funds and CDBG and different government agency funds that is out there, we can come up with enough funds to put it in," said Vernon Kirk.
   "Imminent threat money is for a hazard. Up there, you have got contaminated wells with E.coli," said Kirk, who then told a story of a small child in another county who suffered kidney failure after drinking water contaminated with E.coli.
   County Mayor Dale Fair said an initial task when he began his job involved taking bottled water to residents in Little Milligan due to a severe drought and contaminated water.
   "The bottom line is how can we get people in the area utility water," said Fair. "The best way, we think, is to get the Imminent Threat Grant, bringing the water from across the Butler Bridge (from Carderview Utility) if it feasible, and going 1.3 miles to Little Milligan and 1.3 miles to Fish Springs and catching the majority of the homes there."
   Darrell Harmon, Butler resident, spoke against the water project and asked Kirk and Fair about the cost to residents. He mistakenly thought residents would be forced to join the water utility and pay for water taps, which normally cost $1,000 each.
   "Most people don't want this water. They have their own. Some people has to transport their water and stuff like that. But other than that, other people don't want your water. We don't need your water. We got our own septic systems in and we got our own water.
   "That's the reason we own our property there ... We love it and we don't want nothing messed with our water in any way ... We don't want to be forced to do stuff that we don't want to do. We don't want to be forced to have to pay for water lines we don't even want nothing to do with.
   "Poor people can't afford stuff like this. We want to leave our water just the way it is," said Harmon.
   Kirk told financially concerned citizens that, through the grant money, the tap fee and up to 400 feet of water line from their meter would be free to those who want to benefit from utility water.
   The decision to tap into the utility water from Carderview is up to homeowners, Fair said; they will not be forced to take it.
   However, Kirk said that, if a resident does not tap into the water during the initial hookup, the normal tap fee will be enforced.
   "The CDBG will run the line from the meter to the house and hook it up to the house under the Imminent Threat (grant). Normally, we try to set 400 feet from the meter to the house. But under this project if the house is 500 to 600 feet we will make every attempt to hook up every house on that water. They went out and surveyed 260 people in the community and 222 were willing to hook up to the water," Kirk said.
   "We have school kids with no water to take a bath. They would go to school and had to be taken to the school to be given a bath. How does that make a child feel to have to do that? Several people need the water. It is not forced. If a person doesn't want the water they don't have to take it," Kirk said.
   Homes can still utilize an existing water supply as long as the utility water line is not connected to it. Kirk added that two separate water systems, such as a spring and the utility, can be used as long as they are not connected to the same line.
   "You cannot have their own well water or spring water connected to the public system," he said.
   Although many factors determine the cost of a monthly water bill, Kirk estimated the cost to residents will be $32 to $39 per month. This figure is subject to change if the county receives more grant money, or if more residents than expected sign on, which could lower individual cost.
   Bill Finney, Little Milligan resident, has been working with other residents for more than three years to find a reliable water source. He and others volunteer their time to transport water and fill personal water tanks that only supply water for approximately one to two weeks.