Grant funding from the state will help run water lines to rural homes in Vinton County

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VINTON COUNTY, Ohio (WOUB) — Vinton County will receive a $5.8 million grant from the state to bring drinking water to underserved households.

A man pours water from a water dispensary into the back of his truck
Many Vinton County residents use the dispensaries as a clean source of water for their homes. [Madison Moore | WOUB]
More than 18,000 feet of watermains will extend service to 24 households along Garrett Ridge. The funding will also help upgrade two pumping stations located along SR 327 and Kelly Road and enable the construction of a 132,000-gallon water storage tank.

In total, 130 people will benefit from the project.

The grant funding comes from Ohio’s Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Grant Program, which recently received a $250 million boost from the passage of House Bill 168.

“[The state] told us we shouldn’t apply for more than $5 million, but we could if we justified it,” said Terri Fetherolf, director of the Vinton County Development Department. “We found that the area that showed the most need was Garrett Ridge.”

Currently, 1,733 rural households in Vinton County do not have water service, representing 46% of all rural households.

Extending water lines to serve homes in Vinton County is expensive and challenging because of Vinton County’s low population density and rugged topography. Other difficulties include acquiring property and obtaining rights of way to put the waterlines in.

“Our population density is 31 people per square mile, which means you may see a cluster of houses and then you may have to go another quarter mile before you get to the next resident,” Fetherolf said. “And that’s in addition to the fact that you may be going up and down hills and across creeks. It’s not like taking a subdivision somewhere with nice, flat little streets and houses side by side.”

Rising labor and material costs, along with supply chain issues, have also dogged the project.

“We’ve seen an almost 100% increase in costs,” said Larry Foster, General Manager of Jackson County Water. “That’s why this project, although it’s being funded with about $5.8 million, is not going to build the entire project we’d wanted to build.”

Jackson County Water had originally wanted to extend water lines to more homes in Garrett Ridge but was forced to reduce the number of residences served by half.

While the scope of the Garrett Ridge water project is limited, it represents the first step in extending water lines to homes throughout Vinton County.

“It’s laying the groundwork for continuing into the area we intend to serve,” Foster said. “Sometimes you must spend a lot of money to get into a position to ensure service will be available in the future.”

It will take many years and millions of dollars to run water lines to every rural home without water in Vinton County.

As a result, water vending stations will remain in Vinton County even after this project is completed.

Nevertheless, Fetherolf is optimistic about the project.

“I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to start somewhere and I think this [project] is giving us a good foundation to build on, to line up additional funding and be able to continue to roll out water lines,” said Fetherolf. “Even if it’s only a few miles at a time, I think that it’s going to make a difference.”