The room was tense as residents challenged the board, some with tearful statements. At one point, police intervened to calm the situation and prepared to take people out of the room.
“I want my water. I’m not going to let it go,” said April Fincher, a Jud Brazier Road resident.
The board’s chairman said the authority was doing all it could do.
“We did want to put water up that mountain. We do. We really do,” said Harold McDurmon, chairman of the Polk County Water Authority.
McDurmon cited the estimated $600,000 that it would cost to bring water to that area as a roadblock. Authority members said they couldn’t justify spending that amount of money to provide water to eight to ten houses.
“We have also checked for opportunities for future growth or development in that part of the county, such as planned subdivisions, industry or businesses, apartments, or other projects that might help to justify the spending, but there are none,” Water Authority General Manager Jack Damron said in a prepared statement released at the meeting.
Fincher and others made strong accusations against authority board members and Damron during the Feb. 11 meeting.
Fincher said 2007 authority minutes show the board made an agreement with her late husband, Chad, to set aside money for water in the area.
The board voted in December 2008 to halt the monthly contribution to the project and the board dissolved the special line extension altogether in 2012.
“You lied in the newspaper saying there was no written or verbal agreement,” Fincher said. “There is a written agreement. It’s in your minutes.”
Damron and McDurmon explained after the meeting that residents did not have a formal, signed agreement regarding the 2007 approved project, so the authority is not legally bound by their meeting minutes. The board has the discretionary authority to change its mind about any project, the men said.
Damron said the authority, finding itself cash-strapped, decided to end the project and move the money saved for Jud Brazier water lines to what it considered to be more advantageous projects.
Damron said the terrain surrounding the Jud Brazier Road area made it impossible for the authority to guarantee the minimum of 20 pounds of water pressure, which could ultimately affect the county’s other 8,900 customers.
“We can’t risk taking water that far and then we can’t get you water. We risk all the customers,” McDurmon said.
However, Jud Brazier area David Fincher said the authority offered to put in lines at his home for $54,000 with the guarantee of proper water pressure. He said it was one mile to the nearest county water source.
Dusty Crile said the authority offered to install water lines to his home if he paid $42,000 for 4,200 feet of line. Crile said he didn’t understand the cost since the authority has water lines running to Alabama residents just a few miles past his property.
Damron and McDurmon said water has been supplied to some in Alabama since the early 1990s. They didn’t know how many Alabama residents are on Polk County water and don’t know how that project was funded.
Damron said the cost of running lines per customer depends on the terrain, elevation and the cost of materials. He said it is provided on an “at cost” basis.
Damron said in his prepared statement the authority has offered to install a meter at a nearby home of a water customer on the county system that would make water available to the Finchers, but they turned that offer down.
The authority also offered to provide the family with a water meter for a nearby fire hydrant at a discounted cost. A promissory note was issued for the remaining cost of the meter, Damron said.
Water from the hydrant could be used to fill tanks that the Finchers would be able to transport to their property as needed, he explained.
Damron said the Finchers never made any payments toward the meter and had to return it.
(Editor's clarification: The Cedartown Standard was contacted by the water authority on Wednesday, Feb. 20 in reference to the statement above. The water authority stated Wednesday that the Finchers did make initial payments on the meter, but those payments did not continue, resulting in the return of the meter.)
Damron said running out of water is a risk taken by those living in rural areas.
“We understand this is an emotional issue for families without water. But private wells that go dry, especially in elevated areas of the county, are a common occurrence and beyond the control of the water authority,” Damron said.
The Polk County Water Authority does not receive tax money. Water customer fees collected by the authority are used to operate the organization.
The members of the Polk County Water Authority are not elected, rather they are appointed by the Polk County Board of Commissioners and serve five-year terms.