After half a decade's wait, public water service will be provided to some 900 residents of Villanow, Ga., between LaFayette and Dalton.
In late March, a four-man Walker County crew will fire up their backhoes and Bobcats and start digging into what's expected to be a three-year process of laying some 90 miles of 6-inch-diameter and larger plastic water main.
"If it's just nice ground with not a lot of rock in it, you can lay quite a bit [of pipeline]. About 500 or 600 feet a day, as long as they're not running into a lot of rock," project manager Jeremy Swaggerty said.
About five years ago, federal agencies proposed spending $18 million to do a version of the water-supply project, Walker County Coordinator David Ashburn said.
But that money never materialized.
"The federal government announced it and did all kinds of [stuff]. But as of today, it's never been appropriated," Ashburn said. "Basically, something that was approved five or six years ago has gone nowhere."
So the Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority, which is headed by county Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, sold $2.5 million worth of bonds to get the project going, he said.
Ashburn said the federal project may have stalled because of its high price tag. The $18 million federal project, divided among 874 potential customers, would have cost $20,595 per residence.
The county project will be less expensive, he said, partly because Walker County will buy water from Dalton and Summerville to reduce costs.
The federal project would have provided residents with water meters free of charge. But the county project will require people to pay the regular hook-up fee of $750, plus a $50 deposit and a $10 turn-on fee.
The county will use its in-house work crew to install the water system, which will include fire hydrants every 1,000 feet.
Some Villanow residents had to have water trucked in during the 2007 drought. Some with cloudy well water still buy drinking water, Ashburn said.
He expects people will want to hook up to the county water system which, with 11,000 water and sewer customers, is the largest of the eight water companies that serve Walker County.
"We have the cheapest water in the state of Georgia or in Tennessee," Ashburn said. It costs $8 a month for 2,000 gallons of water, which is enough for a couple, he said.
Walker County soon will mail notices to Villanow residents for a public meeting about the water system. The meeting will be held at a yet-to-be-determined date and time at the Armuchee Community Center, Ashburn said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.