In the past, when Vinton County residents pulled together for a united goal, they have proven they can get the job done.

Some notable examples include the drive for a new high school building, the effort to get a new grocery store, and Lake Hope Lodge rebuilding project. In the same vein, those building blocks are now being reassembled for a much-needed water-line project.

 A team consisting of Vinton County government leaders, U.S. Congressman Steve Stivers, Vinton County School District leaders, along with citizens, and township officials are all pulling together for a common cause. Their objective to see if COVID-19 CARES Act funds can be used to extend public water service to between 53 and 70 homes in the Garrett Ridge area in western Vinton County. The area is in Jackson Township and the goal is to connect those houses to the existing Jackson County Water Co. lines. Vinton County Commissioner Mark Fout has been out in front on this issue as he has been looking for ways to extend water for some time.

Recently, I took a drive to the area and saw some of the difficult issues faced by residents. The area has high elevations -- that was something I knew. What I did not know is the shallow well situation and salt tables which make it impossible for citizens to dig deep wells. According to the Vinton County Health Department, the wells are shallow as salt water is hit at 25 feet. We have learned a lot about water during the COVID-19 pandemic and what an important agent it can be in its spread. This proposed project turns the clock back to another story I covered in Jackson County,

 In a somewhat similar situation about 20 years ago, an ad hoc citizens group, aided later by the politicians, achieved big results. Ray area resident Rita Ray started a movement to bring public water to an area on State Route 327, and roads off of it, and had meetings at a church on Saturday mornings. They just would not take “no” for an answer and it led to a $10-million project and many residents in that area receiving public water. The key issue there was having arsenic in the water and it was a key challenge to get it funded. It should also be noted drinking salt water is almost as bad as drinking water with a high arsenic content -- as both can lead to death.

Since water is so important to the quality of life, what a better way to use CARES Act funds by extending water lines to areas that need them? On many government projects, models are used to determine the cost per mile, density quality, and cost-effectiveness of the project. Models are necessary for planning, but there are times when overriding factors become involved and projects need to be completed because there are no other options. This project fits the need of one that can and should -- as long as it works hydraulically -- be completed.

If the project is feasible and funding can be acquired without a lot strings being attached, the Jackson County Water Company is willing to build the lines and service these residents.

It is important to realize there are always restraints to public projects. In a perfect world, everyone who wants water can get it. However, in this particular case, the difference is the project is already being studied. There also appears to be enough water pressure, at least from what we have learned, to serve at least the 53-70 homes.

 In this case, the plight of these residences is clear. They will have to haul water forever, move or risk drinking unsafe water, and possibly spreading COVID at a time when cases are spiking. What their children need from school is education, job training, extracurricular opportunities, and healthy lives. Is there a better use for CARES Act money? It should fit like a hand in a glove.

We at Total Media support this project and believe public-water service is the best choice for them. Again, the hydraulic standpoint is key but, the evidence points to this an emergency nature and being in the public interest. A media outlet should take a stand on vital community issues. We endorsed the new high school drive many years ago and are proud to stand up for the children and community once again.