For more than five years, residents in a county area north of Clovis have been trying to get a steady source of water.
The group is edging closer to getting water piped from Fresno or Clovis, but the costs could be higher than originally expected.
Fresno County officials will discuss plans for the piping project at a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Buchanan High School multipurpose room.
Some residents already have run out of water, and others are worried they are running out, which means spending thousands of dollars to drill new or deeper wells.
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The area includes 432 properties encompassing Appaloosa Acres, Horseshoe Bend and other individual parcels.
Residents raised $50,000 to have an engineering study prepared to examine whether the piping project was possible. Property owners later voted for $2,900 assessments per parcel to pay for a report evaluating where the water would come from, engineering work and a cost analysis.
Residents say they are concerned that overall project costs will be higher than an original estimate of $23,000 per property paid over 20 years.
But Frank Fowler, the county's deputy public works director, said the projects costs could be curtailed if the county can hire "hungry contractors" and obtain low interest rates available through federal economic stimulus money.
"We are seeing some awfully good bids," he said, referring to bids for other county projects.
The costs to be discussed at Thursday night's meeting would likely present the worst-case scenario, Fowler said.
When the bids are revealed later this year, residents will learn what the project would cost them and then vote on whether to proceed with it. A majority vote of property owners will determine the outcome, Fowler said.
Ron Craven opposes the plan because he thinks neighborhood residents shouldn't be the only ones paying to fix the problem.
"Overall, a pipeline out there would be a good idea, but I feel the county, city of Fresno and city of Clovis should pay part of the expense, because they are the ones that created our problem" by allowing developments and other wells in the area, he said.
He also thinks the project's costs will come in higher than expected because interest and inflation will drive up the cost of a water bond.
"We know a lot of people who did vote yes that will not be voting yes the next time," Craven said. "We really feel we have been misled."
But supporter Pete Hammar says the project will give property owners "water for life."
"Even if water was [now] gushing out of my land, it's an outstanding investment," said Hammar, whose well has slowed to a trickle. It's not easy, he said, to find a reliable source of ground water.
Hammar said one neighbor drilled three 500-foot dry holes, but another neighbor drilled a well that produces 10 gallons per minute.
"It's not as if the failure is total and widespread," Hammar said. "If it was, we would have no issue here."
The plan is for residents to use water from either the Fresno or Clovis water treatment plants. Residents also would be required to pay Fresno Irrigation District for the water, connections to the system, and operation and maintenance of the system. The project would provide residents with drinking water, and they would be asked to continue to use wells for landscaping and other outdoor water use, Fowler said.