Sen. Crowe helps residents without water in Little Milligan area

By Megan R. Harrell

STAR STAFF
mharrell@starhq.com

   Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) was in the Fish Springs/Elk Mills area Tuesday to gain a better understanding of the community's current water plight. Little Milligan Elementary School Principal, J.R. Campbell took Crowe on a tour of the area's water sources.
   Crowe's visit was in response to growing concerns over a lack of sufficient water for the school and surrounding residents. He presented Campbell with a check for $500 to help offset some of the costs related to distributing water.
   Campbell has been trucking water to homes where residents, such as the elderly, are unable to transport it themselves. He has also been taking water to some of his student's homes.
   Crowe would not say who the source of the $500 donation was.
   Campbell, excited to receive money from Crowe, stated it would go a long way to help with immediate water concerns.
   "There are a couple of people in Fish Springs that do not drive, and we are going to get them a tank with this money so now they do not have to put water in gallon jugs," Campbell said. "This is tremendous. Especially since it is getting cold, because we were wondering what we were going to do this winter."
   The plastic piping that carries water to many homes in the community often freezes during the winter months. Residents have had to light brush fires in the past in order to thaw water lines.
   Many residents collect their water from a spring on Smith Hollow Rd. Vehicles line up daily to wait for their turn at the spring. Keith Campbell has waited as long as an hour and a half for his water tank to fill with spring water. He lives on Smith Hollow Rd. and has been drawing drinking water from the spring his entire life.
   Little Milligan School has one of the only wells in the community. It is one of only two schools in the state that currently operates on well water. Although the district has to pay $15 weekly to have the well water tested, it is grateful for the water source. "This well is a luxury," Campbell said.
   After seeing the situation Fish Springs/Elk Mills residents and students are dealing with, Crowe stated he would take steps to bring them relief. "I had no idea it was like this. We really need to get either a Community Development Block Grant, or emergency grant money," Crowe said.
   Several areas in the region have received CDBG funding for water projects. The grant is allocated to the state from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Committee and provides funding for water projects throughout the state.
   North Elizabethton and Tiger Creek were the most recent areas to receive the state funding for water projects. According to Crowe, the grants are typically in the amount of $500,000.
   "I have worked on getting 10 grants for water in the region, and this is the most needy situation I have ever seen," Crowe said. He noted that the residents have never complained about having to pipe and carry their own drinking water.
   Crowe would like to see the next governor visit the area. Most of the funding for a water project would be ultimately approved by the new governor. Crowe was confident the project will get under way in the future. "Whoever the new governor is, we'll get it done," Crowe said.
   The closet water lines end at Watauga Point and Horseshoe Cove, just a few miles from the Fish Springs/Elk Mills communities. Local officials will most likely look into the prospect of adding to the lines and running them up to homes without utility water.
   Ken Ray from the First Tennessee Development District, stated that there are a number of factors to consider when looking at running water lines to a community. He noted that it is a process to evaluate the project, and that the cost will be the most significant factor in determining how it is completed.
   "There are a lot of decisions that need to be made," Ray said. "It has a long way to go."
   Ray will meet with County Executive, Dale Fair and Sen. Crowe today to discuss the water crisis in the Little Milligan area, reviewing finances and technicalities behind getting utility water for the residents and school.