To find out more on the situation, iSurf News paid a visit to the Simmons’ household and spoke with married couple, Jim and Bobbie Simmons, as well as their daughter and son-in-law, Lynda and Steve Oakley, all of which explained that they have been unable to receive any kind of local or federal assistance with a new water line extension.
As Lynda explained, “Right up the road, across the bridge, and down that gravel road, people have running water, but my parents’ home is left out.”
In addition, Bobbie Simmons mentioned that there were about three other households on Stagecoach Rd. that are facing similar issues.
“Mom and dad have lived out here for about 44 years,” said Lynda, “and throughout the entire 44 years they’ve had a great well and have had all the water they ever needed. We’ve never had any problems, but the well has dried up. Now, we have no options for water out here. There’s water around us, but there’s no water here, and, unless you’ve experienced it, you don’t know what it’s like. It’s hard. Things people take for granted, like being able to wash clothes, cooking, or taking a shower, have to be rationed out until the next time they can get water.”
To make matters worse for the family, Bobbie’s husband and Lynda’s father, Jim, is currently dealing with detrimental, heart-related health issues.
Furthermore, the small, portable tank located in the Simmons’ side yard—from which the family is currently drawing water—will no longer function as the winter climate drops around or below freezing temperatures.
“Mom and dad have worked hard their entire lives,” said Lynda. “Dad’s retired now and he’s in poor health and we really don’t know what we’re going to do. Right now we’re hauling water in that little tank out there and Steve’s hooked a pump up to it, but it won’t last forever. It’s just really disheartening because mom and dad need the water. Winter’s coming now, and we’ll do everything we can—we’re not going to leave them without anything—but it’s just hard. And people say, ‘Why don’t they sell their house?’ but who’s going to buy a home that can’t get running water? It’s just not fair, because there’s probably never going to be enough people to justify the costs as long as there isn’t running water.”
In looking for a solution to their unfortunate situation, the Simmons’ son-in-law, Steve Oakley, who is also the Superintendent for Madisonville’s Water Department, explained that he had contacted the two water districts responsible for portions of their home’s specific area: Nebo Water District and North Hopkins Water District. As a result, both districts put out bids and/or estimates on the cost of the water line extension in question. In the end, the Nebo Water District offered the lowest bid on the potential project, which comes in right under $50,000. However, without funding that can be allocated to a relatively costly project that would serve only a smaller number of people, there is little assistance local departments can offer.
Additionally, Steve has even offered to provide the labor for the project, which makes up a large portion of the estimated $50,000 cost, yet the remaining fees for engineering and materials are still over $15,000.
“This project is always lowest on the list because it serves so few people, but it’s never going to serve any more people,” said Lynda, “because, for one thing, nobody’s going to move out here if they can’t get water. Who’s going to do that? So we’re never going to be on the top of the list to get funds, because it’s always going to be for a few people. If they could get running water out here, they may be more people, but what they’re telling us at the Pennyrile Area Development District—which is where the funding would come from—is that they only allow so much money for so many people in an area. I truly believe that people are trying to help, but it just seems like there’s no option."
After speaking with the family, iSurf News sought to help in finding a solution to the Simmons’ situation as well, yet found little more than what the family members had already heard from local departments— “the cost has to match the amount of people it serves.” In fact, this same idea remains relevant at the state level as well.
Following his presentation of two Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to Madisonville and Hanson, KY on October 27th, iSurf News spoke with Governor Steve Beshear about the Simmons’ situation, to which he responded, “There are grants and loans that cities, counties, areas, and water districts can get to build water lines, but it’s obviously also a competitive situation. You’ve got to look at the cost-benefit ratio or how much you’re going to spend to help how many people, and you do have lots of situations where you only have an isolated few people in an area and it’s harder to work through that. Down the line, I know that everybody hopes that we can get it for the whole county, though.”
The Pennyrile Area Development District (PADD), which seeks to secure federal funding and/or grants for projects like these throughout portions of the west Kentucky region, has openly stated that the funding for an estimated $50,000 water line extension on Stagecoach Rd. is simply not in their budget. In fact, many of their higher priority projects are lacking the needed funds as well.
As Hopkins County Judge-Executive, Donnie Carroll, explained to iSurf News, “There’s a Water Board that meets out of PADD and, as of right now, they have $8 million worth of projects, but there’s no money. I sent PADD copies of what the estimates from the Nebo Water District were and they said that they didn’t have any money for it, that they couldn’t even afford the top priority projects they’ve got going on right now.”
The letter mentioned by Judge Carroll was responded to by PADD member, John Herring, who stated that, “I am sorry to inform you that the Stage Coach Road project does not meet federal guidelines for project eligibility. Current federal guidelines state that a project is ineligible for funding if the cost per customer is greater than 10,000 dollars. The Stage Coach Line Extension project has been estimated to cost approximately 50,000 dollars per customer. With only one household to be served, the cost ratio is too high. Again, I apologize that I cannot give you any better news, but at this time the project is not fiscally viable.”
As Judge Carroll went on to mention, “All the 'water people' meet at PADD and they sit down and rank each of the projects. Right now, they have 71 projects to look at. They sent me 15 projects just for Hopkins County the other day. There’s another deal like this out on Osborne Lane in Madisonville, too. As soon as you turn onto Osborne Lane from Broadway, there are six homes living off of well water, and it’s looking like it will cost about $63,000 to service them from the City of Madisonville.”
“I wish we could do something to help them,” said Judge Carroll, “but, in the end, you have to look at the need and how many people it’s going to service for the amount of money you’re going to spend.”
Though hope in finding funding for a line extension looks bleak at this time, the Simmons family is not giving up.
“There’s got to be some way that we can get water out here,” said Lynda, “and I’m not willing to believe that there is no hope.”
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