By Heather Mullinix
The project to supply water to the 450 homes and 1,696 lots to Cumberland Cove is about half way complete.
"City water will be available to anyone who wants to hook in," said Ted Hennis, president of the Cumberland Cove Property Owners Association.
The project includes installing 65 miles of water lines along the development, down every street and to every cul-de-sac, he said.
It's a joint effort between the property owners, the city of Crossville's Catoosa Water Department and the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development.
The effort began in 2007 when the Cumberland Cove water committee began researching water availability to the area.
"Everyone is on a well, but you don't know if that well will keep producing," Hennis said.
Several areas of Cumberland Cove have had difficulty with wells, from not enough water, rusty water or low pressure. Most affected is the Bluff area.
"The closer you get to the bluff, the harder it is to get water," said John Ludwig, chairman of the water committee.
The water committee first went to the Upper Cumberland Development District to see if there were grants available to fund the project. However, there were no grants or low-interest loans available to the private property owners association.
"That was one of the first steps, because we knew it would be one of the questions," Ludwig said.
The city of Crossville, however, as a public municipality and utility provider, was eligible for a low-interest loan and grant to fund a portion of the project. The city operates the Catoosa Water Utility department, which serves the northern area of Cumberland County.
"What a friend he was to us," Ludwig said of Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham, who worked with the property owners.
Graham said, "Safe, reliable water is a fundamental building block for every healthy, growing community. Every person desiring city water should receive it at the lowest possible rate."
Graham thanked U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis and Rural Development and the Cumberland Cover property owners for forming the partnership to install 62 miles of water lines.
Hennis said, "I think this is the first project in the state where the city and the water district and a private property owners association have come together to complete such a massive project."
The city of Crossville received a $1.2 million low-interest loan and another $800,000 grant from Rural Development to assist with funding the project that was estimated to cost $5 million.
In 2008, a vote of the membership was held to determine if they would agree to a $1,950 per lot assessment to help raise $3 million towards the costs of the project. Seventy-eight percent of those who voted were in favor, and 1,202 ballots were returned.
The POA members could choose to pay the entire assessment up front or divide it into three yearly payments, either $950, $600 and $400 or three payments of $650.
"The homeowners are funding the bulk of the project, which is subsidized by a Rural Development loan to the city," Hennis said. "It's a win-win proposal. Catoosa gets to make money selling water and the residents and the homeowners get the benefit of city water availability."
While there are 1,696 lots in Cumberland Cove, there are only 450 homes at this time.
"Many people are waiting to build until after the water lines go in," said Hennis. "The economy has slowed down construction, but I'm sure as the economy picks up we'll have more and more houses being started."
The property owners association has had to file 150 liens against property owners that didn't pay the full assessment amount. Of those, 17 Cumberland County property owners and 12 Putnam County property owners were taken to court to be found in default.
"Out of 1,696 lots, that's not bad," Hennis said. "And there are a few that have filed for hardship with the board of directors. They've been put on small monthly payments and they make those payments religiously."
And those who may not have voted in favor of the project reap a benefit, Hennis said.
"Even if they turn around and sell their lot, if the project doesn't increase the value of their property, it sure will make it more sellable," Hennis said. "We have a lot of people who come up here from Florida. They don't know what a well is. They've never had anything but city water."
In order to provide an adequate supply of water, the city is upgrading the six-inch water line along Hwy. 70 N. to Cumberland Cove to a 10-inch water line. The project includes about 10.2 miles of new water lines at an estimated cost of $2.5 million.
Monday, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis and USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode announced the city would receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the project through a $1.7 million Recovery Act infrastructure loan and a $800,000 grant.
Graham said the six-inch line would remain in the ground and could be used as a sewer line from the Baker's Crossroads area should the county build a new elementary school there.
Hennis and Ludwig praised W&O Construction, which won the bid for the project, on their quick and efficient work. W&O Construction submitted the low bid of $3.5 million.
"They've been very conscientious in working with the homeowners," Hennis said.
The contractors are moving at a brisk pace. They started construction in December 2009 and have already completed about half the water line installations. According to Crossville Finance Director Fred Houston, 30 water taps have already been sold along the lines, which are put into service as soon as they are installed, tested and pressurized.
The water lines are also allowing for some fire hydrants, flush valves and fill stations to provide water to fire fighters in the event of an emergency.