Homebuyer dismayed at expense for water service

Friday, November 20, 2009

A man who recently bought a house at Milltown was dismayed Tuesday while consulting with Marshall County utility directors who estimate he might have to pay several thousand dollars to get water service.

Robert Newsum, 1470 Milltown Road, has sulfur water from a well, he told the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities during its monthly meeting in offices on West Commerce Street. Newsum wants the county-owned water service to extend a water line to his house.

Residents west of his house are served by a Maury County utility, Newsum said. But his house is about .4 miles away from the last house planned for a connection to one of the MCBPU pipeline extensions.

"I understand there are some people who are not giving easements (for the utility right of way needed for the longer pipe) and that that's a hold-up," he said. "I'll give an easement."

It's not that simple, according to Bob Ramsey, the consulting engineer serving MCBPU, who sought Newsum's count of homes between his house and the end of the project. That's important information when determining whether it's financially feasible for the utility to extend the waterline.

Newsum knew there were several properties, but it's unclear whether there are other residents who want service.

Another factor to be considered, MCBPU Chairman Rocky Bowden said, is whether a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is available for the pipeline extension.

The MCBPU has several waterlines being extended with federal funding.

"We break these things up into several short projects, Bowden explained. "That's why there are several ... sections of roads" where water lines are being installed to reach more residents so the utility will have more customers.

MCBPU Director Bill Blalock suggested that Newsum speak with residents and owners of property near his Milltown Road home to know how many might want to tap on to the county water line if it was extended.

Bowden agreed: "That would be the research that would have to be done."

Discussion turned to what Newsum might have to pay for the water line extension. There are several variables in the calculation, but Newsum was provided a broad range so he'd have a grasp for the size of the project. Without federal money, the project might cost $40,000, but that also depends on the cost of digging, or blasting a trench for the pipe.

If several homeowners are going to buy water taps and be regular customers, then the cost might range from $4,000 to $5,000, according to the board's discussion with Newsum, Ramsey, Bowden and Tommy Whaley, superintendent of the utility.

"Before you do it at 100 percent" customer-paid pipe and taps, Bowden said, "we'll find out the cost with our engineer and then you can make your final decision."

Newsum asked when the water line might reach his home and Bowden replied, "I can't give you an answer. It might not necessarily be our top priority."

The MCBPU directors voted months ago to rank pipeline extension projects based on a priority that best serves the entire system. That guiding policy includes a calculation on the cost-benefit of a project. The utility would be prone to authorize an extension when more homes are to be served per mile than another extension of similar cost.

After his discussion with the board, Newsum said he bought his house one month ago and that he was under the impression that MCBPU would be extending pipe to his part of Milltown Road in the spring.