A gubernatorial visit to the Vinton County Health Department (VCHD) may be a sign of hope to Garrett Ridge residents who are hoping to receive public water service through the Jackson County Water Co. or the Ross County Water Co.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine stopped at the VCHD on Monday, March 29 as part of his statewide tour to thank County Health Department workers for all they have done during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor was highlighting vaccine distribution to area residents, and was the guest of VCHD Administrator Janelle McManis, VCHD Medical Director Dr. Susan Crapes, and the entire VCHD staff.

After the COVID-19-related discussion had been completed, Gov. DeWine addressed other issues including water and sewer services in the county. County Commissioner Mark Fout quickly took the opportunity to bring up the current plight of Garrett Ridge residents. The Commissioners are seeking roughly $2 million to help serve 150 to 200 homes, and they, VCHD and the Vinton County Local Schools have declared the project an emergency. Fout noted the residents in that area have “No Water, No Vote” signs in their yards.

From a health-related standpoint, McManis told Gov. DeWine the reason an issue exists there is the presence of brine in the water, which makes it difficult to drill wells and use that water. The Commissioners also told the governor, the county is investing in a Master Map Project designed to mark the most identifiable areas and provide cost estimates per connection to the water companies. The Jackson County Water Co. already has part of the project underway.

“We are not in the water business, but we are an advocate for them,” said Fout.

Gov. DeWine seemed to take a genuine interest in the project. While he made no promises, he did indicate he was going to look at the proposed project more closely. Fout also relayed to the governorthe county has invested in water vending machines in Allensville and McArthur, and that they have both sold over one million gallons a year. Fout said the stations do not solve the water problem, but they do cut down on the driving time for people that were going to other places to obtain water.

Fout thanked the governor for listening and taking into consideration the concerns of a rural county, and expressed some optimism that a solution may be in the works.

“I think we hit a home run for the Garrett Ridge water project today,” he said. “We will continue to reach out to anyone we can, and again, we thank the governor for taking a firsthand interest in the project.”