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Residents learn about, sign up for water system at meeting
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Second meeting

What: A second forum on the water system. Sign-ups will be taken.

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 31

Where: Midway Civic Center

For information call Vanessa Roberts at 977-1573 or the commission at 876-2164.

Commission hosted a forum Wednesday night regarding a proposed rural water system scheduled to serve the areas of Screven Fork, Holmestown and Highway 84 from the Hinesville to Highway 196. More than 100 residents from the area gathered at the St. James Community Center for the initial informational meeting.

The rural system, funded by a $3.2 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $1 million low-interest loan, is expected to be operational by early 2013.

Commission Chairman John McIver said the board had been seeking a way to provide the area with a dependable source for clean water for at least eight years, ever since several residents asked for county help. The importance became more apparent after a University of Georgia study found wells in the area had unsafe drinking water, he said.

“Through the assistance of our congressional delegation and USDA, we will finally be able to provide clean, safe, drinking water,” he said.   

Before work starts, certain USDA guidelines must be met. First, 80 percent of potential customers must sign an agreement with the county. Each signee also must pay a $50 deposit. After the construction contract is awarded, the deposit increases to $250. The county anticipates a grant to help with connections to each residence, Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel said. If successful, users will pay no additional fees. However, users who sign up after construction will have to shoulder the connection costs along with applicable deposits. Post-construction connection costs could be about $2,000, he said.

Matthew Barrow, representing project designer P.C. Simonton & Associates, shared details from the forum with the commission Thursday. He estimated that 45 property owners signed up.

The minimum monthly cost would be set by the USDA, Barrow said, and ultimately would depend on the total number of users. However, based on the 80 percent user minimum required by the USDA to proceed, customers can expect their monthly bill to be about $36.

Property owners also may save money through reduced energy consumption. It takes about $30 per month to run a deep well pump, which won’t be necessary under the new system. The old wells must be disconnected to avoid cross-contamination, Barrow and McIver said. The disconnected wells still can be used, but  not for consumption.

Barrow told the commission that construction is scheduled to begin by Sept. 6, 2012.

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