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Water system gets grant

JEFFERS -- Safe drinking water will be provided to 125 connections, mostly residences, in Jackson, Cottonwood and Murray counties, thanks to a $819,000 grant and a $1,768,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Red Rock Rural Water System.

"It'll give them an opportunity to access good quality and quantity of water, which many of these people do not have," said Dominic Jones, manager of the Red Rock Rural Water System.

"In their locations in the rural areas, they often have to deal with a high hardness level of water, high sulfate levels and maybe contaminated water supplies."

In order to apply for the grant and loan money, Red Rock began with a preliminary engineering report and an environmental review, as well as the commitment to the project of the 125 people. The application was sent in May 2009, and Red Rock will offer the projects, which have already been designed, as soon as it can.

Jones hopes the project will be complete by the end of 2010.

About 50 connections will be made in Cottonwood County, 40 in Jackson County and 30 in Murray County, with a few more scattered throughout Red Rock's system in other counties, including Brown and Lyon counties. Some of the connections will use the water for livestock.

Without the $819,000 grant, each hookup would cost about $18,000. With it, each person will pay only $12,000, which will pay back the $1,768,000 in USDA loan money to the federal government.

The grant-to-loan ratio is based on median household incomes in the area, which is determined by USDA Rural Development, Jones explained. About 31 percent of the $2.6 million project will be paid for by the government via the grant.

"We're actually hoping to have a bid opening within two months," Jones said. "Our plans and specifications are complete. We wanted this project to be funded earlier, but with the backlog of applicants, it wasn't to be."

Jones thanked Minnesota legislators for their help with the project, as well as the USDA for its support.