Water corp. asking for money for shovel-ready project

Tribune-Star/file photoChris Gambill

The nonprofit Sullivan-Vigo Rural Water Corp. says it has a shovel-ready project to install new water lines to serve southern Vigo County and is seeking $2.5 million from the county's portion of the American Rescue Plan.

Vigo County has already received half of its $20.7 million from the federal program. Terre Haute is slated to receive $38.2 million. The funds are to be spent by 2024.

"In 2003, with Vigo County Commissioners and Sullivan County Commissioners being the sponsoring agencies, we were able to procure $9 million from [USDA] Rural Development to finance the building of this water distribution system," Chris Gambill, attorney for the rural water corporation, told commissioners Tuesday.

In Vigo County, the water system serves Pierson, Linton and Prairie Creek townships, plus a small section of Honey Creek Township, while in Sullivan County, it serves Curry, Fairbanks and Turman townships. The nonprofit corporation, which is membership-based, serves about 900 customers, with "about 600 families in Vigo County that now have good, potable water as a result of this project," Gambill said.

While primarily a residential system, it also serves Meridian Brick, formerly Boral Bricks, and a farming company on Indiana 246, Gambill said.

"Unfortunately, when this project was bid in 2004 we were in the middle of the Iraq war and pipeline prices had done what lumber prices have done recently," Gambill said of escalating costs. "As a result, we had to cut over 20 miles of the project out of the final system simply because of the financial constraints."

However, the water corporation was informed by the Alliance of Indiana Rural Water, an association of more than 800 water and wastewater systems in the state, that Sullivan-Vigo Rural Water Corp. is eligible to receive funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

"It is for [federal] funds that are earmarked for water, sewer or broadband expenditures," Gambill said, adding that West Terre Haute and Seelyville are the only other eligible water systems in the county and those two towns are the only wastewater systems eligible under the American Rescue Plan, he told commissioners.

Gambill said Midwest Engineers, which designed the original water distribution system, has design plans "to restore those areas that were cut from the original project. That will allow us to serve a lot of the families who were excluded from receiving this water. Also from an engineering perspective, it puts loops into the project instead of dead ends, which water experts say that is what the water system needs."

A construction plan is ready for nearly nine miles of water pipeline in Vigo County, with cost estimates about $2.5 million, Gambill said. The water corporation purchases water from Indiana-American Water, then distributes that water through its pipeline system.

"I know Vigo County, like every other county, will eventually receive requests from different folks and it will be your job to prioritize where Vigo County spends its $20 million that they received from this act," Gambill said. "We are wanting to put this before you now as it is shovel-ready."

Gambill said 13 residents along South Battlerow Place in southern Vigo County that are having serious water problems are interested in connecting to the water system as it is an area that was cut from the construction project in 2004.

The water corporation spoke to Sullivan County Commissioners on Monday, where extensions of water lines are estimated to cost just over $1 million.

Bionca Gambill, president of Sullivan-Vigo Rural Water Corp., said easements have already been obtained and recorded for the water pipeline. "It would be a boost not only to our system but to the standard of living [of some Vigo County residents]. You don't really know how precious water is until we don't have it," she said, adding some residents are hauling water for home use.

"It would be a win-win for everyone," she said of the proposed project.

Commissioner Chris Switzer told the water corporation representatives that commissioners meet biweekly to learn about any new requirements for the American Rescue Plan "and as we move further along we can reach out to you guys."

After the meeting, Commissioner President Mike Morris said the federal program includes "utility improvements, that is sewer and water, and so this may be one of those plans to help improve our county. It is definitely something that this [federal funding] could be used for," Morris said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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