The Putnam County Commission is applying for a $1.5 million federal grant to extend water lines in the county.
This is the third time the county has applied for the grant, and part of an ongoing effort to bring water lines to rural areas. Commissioners heard public comment on the project at a meeting Tuesday.
Terry Martin, project coordinator at the Regional Intergovernmental Council, said he believes there is a "very good chance" the grant will be funded this time around.
"We have a good application," he said. "We just have to make it a little bit better."
If he's right, the county will be able to extend water lines to Manila Ridge, on the northern edge of the county. That would bring city water to some 47 homes that don't have it - most of those families currently have to haul water to their homes.
The commission has been examining funding sources since West Virginia American Water decided to stop funding expansion projects in 2011.
"They're limited for what they can build," said Mike Hanna, who runs the Putnam Public Service District. "Because to build out there is too expensive for them."
At Tuesday's meeting Hanna explained the relationship between the PSD and West Virginia American Water, in an effort to clarify the reason the water line expansion has been left in the hands of the county.
"Right now we're just a liaison between (West Virginia American Water) and the people," he said.
That's because, decades ago, the PSD sold about half of their lines to the company, in an effort to pay off some old debt. At that time, they turned over much of their operation and maintenance to West Virginia American Water. So now, even though some of the water lines in Putnam County belong to the PSD, they don't have the power to expand and build more lines.
Martin stressed that if the Manila Ridge project is funded with grants, West Virginia American Water will operate those lines - but they won't be sold to the company. Federal grants won't allow the products of those grants to be sold within their useful lifetime, in this case 40 years.
It's cheaper though, Martin said, to let an outside company maintain the water lines than for the county to do it themselves. Even a small, bare-bones operation would require a few trucks and a few full-time employees, and that's not cost effective for a project like this one, when maintenance will likely only be required a few times a month.
The commission will next meet again at 9 a.m. Feb. 26. All meetings are open to the public.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.