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New water system for Meadows

CENTRAL POINT — Years of water woes will soon come to an end for residents of the Meadows who have persuaded the City Council to establish a local improvement district on their behalf.

After years of battling water leaks and wasteful users on a shared, antiquated system, residents of the 266-unit development went to the city seeking help in rebuilding the failing system.

Estimated to cost around &

36;960,000, improvements will be repaid over 10 years and will include engineering, materials and construction. New lines will be connected to individual properties.

Currently, owners within the Freeman Road development divide the monthly cost of water per lot, an approach Meadows manager Bill Stults, former City Council president, said had caused some ill feelings.

One of the drawbacks of what we've got now, folks aren't as careful about their consumption, he said.

— We've eliminated the possibility of leaks on the main and helped people get their leaks fixed. It comes down to consumption and some homes have higher consumption than what you'd expect.

Bottom line, said Stults, is no one wanted to play water police and argue on behalf of those interested in conserving or splurging.

We have people whose kids come over and wash their cars ' and I hear about it. The people who want to use water and have no problem paying for it are tired of being yelled at, he said.

And the people who want to conserve are tired of paying for more than they use. Everybody's in favor of this. The people who want to save and the people who want to use water.

Stults said benefits would be further realized when homeowners received their own water bill. Thanks to changes in billing methods last year, the base monthly water bill was reduced from &

36;13.03 for the first 667 cubic feet to a monthly rate of &

36;2.94 plus &

36;1.47 per 100 cubic feet.

Once the new system is in place, residents will be asked to choose between a one-time payment of about &

36;3,500 or bi-annual payments.

Lower-income residents can apply for a state deferral program that would attach a lien to the property, waiving any payments until sale of the home.

For those younger than 62 with financial concerns, Stults said that city staff seemed willing to work with homeowners.

A City Council meeting Thursday brought mostly positive response from residents with just a handful who thought the city was out to make a buck.

I think the city should be obligated to pay for capital costs since they'll be making the money on the water, one man suggested.

City'd make more money if we let it leak, Mayor Hank Williams countered as the audience laughed.

Williams said Friday the improvement district was merely a means for the city to empower the Meadows community to make much needed improvements.

City realizes no real benefit. It's just a service to citizens, he said. The water system there is a piece of Swiss cheese. It just leaks and leaks. This is a way we can help them where it doesn't hurt them any.

Homeowner Chuck Shinn, who spoke at the meeting, agreed wholeheartedly.

I think it's going to save us a lot of money in the long run, he said.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com