Carroll PSA looks back on 2009

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Many water and sewer projects got off the ground in 2009, but one or two efforts don't seem to be generating much community interest, Carroll Public Service Authority members reflected at their December meeting.

While representatives of some Carroll communities like Sylvatus and Mitchell's Crossroads can't wait until the authority starts installing public water to serve their homes — and representatives of these places have spoken at many of the meetings this year to make their desires known — similar efforts in other parts of the county seem to have fallen flat.

Looking back on the year at their Dec. 7 meeting, authority members found much to be thankful for.

Carroll received millions of dollars in federal grants and loans from Rural Development to pursue building the regional water system and providing water and sewer services to Interstate 77 exits to promote development along the busy traffic corridor.

But one or two projects, like Fries Road/Cliffview water, have been slow to catch on with the citizens.

Carroll officials have been working on the Fries Road water project for some time now without reaching the minimum number of residents to sign up, noted County Administrator Gary Larrowe. "We're not up to the 51 percent yet for those individuals, so we might bring that one up for discussion."

Chairman Sam Dickson recalled that there have been three community meetings there and staff members have gone knocking on doors in the neighborhood to drum up interest for a water system.

And the officials still haven't reached the number of sign-ups needed — more than half of the households in the planned project area —  for Cliffview and Fries Road.

The chairman suggested county staff talk to the key people who want the project the most. so they can let others know that time is running out.

"We need to make it a go, or either go somewhere else and start looking," he said. "No use to keep spending time there if people aren't interested."

The public service authority probably needs to go ahead and set a deadline, Dickson added. The goal is to have enough information to make a decision by the PSA's February meeting, he suggested.

Authority member Andy Jackson made a motion to set that deadline.

Authority member David Hutchins wondered if that deadline could be pushed back to March.

But Dickson said that people need to realize that federal funding is at stake, and that's why a decision has to be made.

All authority members voted yes.

Authority member Jeanette Dalton wondered if Dugspur continues to move ahead, and staff said that Double Cabin Road only needs six more people to reach the minimum number of sign ups.

During authority member's time, Hutchins and other officials indicated that it's a pleasure to hear from the Sylvatus community members because they are always respectful.

He told those in the audience that the authority can't promise they'll get the water system, but he assured them the county continues to work on it.

Referring to a piece of white clothing discolored from being washed in bad water — as displayed by one of the community members at the December meeting — Hutchins recalled a similar problem that people in the Happy Hollow area of Woodlawn faced.

A citizen from that area had shown the authority members a piece of clothing, only washed once, that turned into the ugliest iron rust color.

One of the reasons the authority is working so hard on public systems is the state of the groundwater, he explained.

"I think our county as a whole is reaching that point where there's a lot of iron…" Hutchins said. "I believe it's just we're at that point and we're digging our wells deeper, the water table is falling to a large degree…

"In another five years or 10 years, I'm not sure that there will be wells to supply our residents."

Authority members and staff know the desires of Sylvatus and Mitchell's Crossroads, and they are doing what they can, Hutchins told the residents.

"I think we've had some success stories this year, but we're working," he said. "And until you turn it on at your house, it's not a success story."

It helps to know when community members want water and they show their willingness to work for it, Dalton agreed.

"I think we've had a great year," Jackson said. "We've got a lot of things started and we've got a few things about finished."

He hopes that projects will continue to move forward and the more federal funding will come in so the county can pursue them.

But the authority needs to see that the majority of people in the community want it, and that's why it's good that the Sylvatus and Mitchell's Crossroads residents keep the issue before the county officials.

Authority member Manus McMillian agreed, saying the authority wants to keep up the momentum.

"There's people that got water that didn't have water and that's what we pray that we can carry on and continue," he said. "As one comes off of the list, that there's another one ready to go on."

The Public Service Authority adjourned for the year, until its organizational meeting Jan. 4.