(02/22/2009)
Action was taken Wednesday evening during a special meeting of the Calhoun Commission to move the county's $5.2 million water project ahead.

The commission had received numerous complaints that the Mt. Zion PSD project was stuck over the obtaining right-of-ways for the 21 mile project.

At issue is when the Mt. Zion PSD can call for bids on the project, which has been fully-funded for about two years.

Members of the Mt. Zion PSD Board, the board's secretary-treasurer Wilma Mace, project engineer Jim Hildreth and several community members attended the meeting.

Commissioner Chip Westfall said "This is too important of a project for Calhoun not to get it moving."

Commissioner Kevin Helmick said the commission helped initiate the project and will pass-down the funding, "It is now up to to the PSD," expressing concern that the longer the project languishes the more inflation will drain the funds.

The long-time project has already been granted an extra $1,250,000 because of inflationary costs.

Commission president Bob Weaver told PSD members, "We're here to help you," while expressing concern that an earlier offer to the board's secretary-treasurer Wilma Mace for the county to provide a worker was not accepted.

Commissioners and the PSD, at the conclusion of the meeting, agreed to accept the county's offer to provide a county employee and fund another part-time person designated by the PSD to wrap up the right-of-ways in the next few weeks.

Several community members volunteered to provide transportation for the workers.

PSD board secretary-treasurer Mace told commissioners that the board's attorney Tom Whittier of Spencer was responsible for a slow down in the right-of-way process last year, although about 50 of the the right-of-way forms had been on her desk since November.

Mace indicated 97 right-of-ways are needed for the project, which involves 150 customers.

Board president Sharon Postalwait said "We thought they had been done."

Mace said she had been experiencing some serious health problems, causing part of the delay.

Danielle Stevens, an administrative assistant in the County Clerk's office and PSD appointed Norma Collins will be working at wrapping up the right-of-ways in the next few weeks. The commission, in order to help the project, agreed to pay Collins for her work.

Engineer Hildreth was reluctant to give a time when the project could be bid after the right-of-way work is completed.

The project will help a large area of the county have a consistent water supply, increase the property values for residents, provide better fire protection and lower insurance rates.

In 2007, PSD secretary Wilma Mace said 150 customers had signed, saying that was the minimum number to secure funding. The original number was about 183. PSD members went door-to-door to get the needed signatures.

Signers agreed to pay a $100 tap fee and agreed to get water for three years. The average water bill would be about $26 a month, according to Mace.

In 2007, State Director Robert M. Steptoe, III, announced that Rural Development approved a loan of $850,000 and a grant of $450,000 for the project, after costs significantly escalated, adding $1,250,000 to the $4 million project.

The $5.2 million dollar project is one of few that have been fully funded in the state.


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