JONESVILLE — Following Jonesville’s latest town council meeting, held May 9, many residents have been worried about the town’s water quality and the increasing costs of utilities.
The town staff is hopeful a grant will be awarded this fall to help replace much of the town’s old distribution system for Mineral Springs Drive, River Road, Cherry Street, and Cemetery Street.
“I never got a water bill when I lived in Elkin,” said Briarwood resident Lorraine Bensanti. “When I moved to Jonesville, the bill went to $38.50 for me and that price has been rising ever since. The water stinks. You can’t use it. I wouldn’t even let my dog drink that water. Prices are going up for everything these days and many people can afford these costs.
“We don’t mind paying for the water if the water is usable. Many people are sick enough as it is and we don’t need them getting worst due to bad water. If the water is not usable, then somebody’s not doing their job.”
Town Manager Scott Buffkin has stated that the water should still be safe to use.
“The water is aesthetically unpleasing but it’s not unsafe to consume,” said Buffkin. “I brought a drinking glass into the meeting the other night and filled it up at the water fountain here before the meeting started simply to demonstrate that this water comes out of the same water lines that come out of the same water plant that goes to everyone’s homes. We consume it daily. It’s not an unsafe thing. Still, it’s troubling to see people I know who are living on limited resources spending money on water from a store that’s no more clean and no more pure than what they are getting from their tap.”
Buffkin believes the current water rates are high enough to qualify for the Community Development Block grant they have applied for three times in the past six years and the town will be applying for the grant again this coming fall. The grant is based on a percentage of the community’s annual income.
According to Buffkin, the median household income in the target area is $21,809. The water rate is $20 for the first 2,000 gallons per month and $6.50 for each additional 1,000 gallons a month. Sewer, which is operated by the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority, not the town, is $20 for the first 2,000 gallons per month and $9 for each additional 1,000 gallons. In total, 5,000 gallons of water would equal $39.50 and 5,000 gallons of sewer would be $47 for a bill of $86.50 a month.
“The combined water and sewer rate comprises 4.67 percentage of the median household income per month,” said Buffkin. “Last year that income went up just under 5 percent. The year before that it was a little more than 10 percent. Most years have seen a small increase in the costs and the increases these last couple years have been due to debt service for the loan payment we’ve had to make yearly for the money borrowed for the new water treatment plant. I’ve been here eight years and there have been price increases for half of those years.”
This coming fall will be the fourth time the town of Jonesville will apply for the grant having failed to obtain it three times in six years. Buffkin hopes the use of an asset management plan will give their application an extra boost this year.
“It’s a decision by the folks who allocate the money. I felt like each time we’ve gone for the grant we had a strong application, but for whatever reason it wasn’t strong enough,” said Buffkin. “This time we’re performing an asset management plan which would give us extra points on the application. We will have an engineering firm do a full assessment of our system to figure out what parts need to be replaced the soonest.
“The state likes to see this type of information in writing. We’re hoping to get it done this summer. We’ll have to budget some money just to do the engineering study. Grants are due in October so to get those extra points well have to have the engineering work done before then.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.