Politicians, engineers and officials with the Lonoke White Public Water Authority manned shovels Friday at a ground breaking ceremony to build a water system that will supply eight or more communities including Vilonia.
More than 150 were in attendance for the event which was held at the Ward Chamber of Commerce. A prestigious line-up of speakers, Ward Mayor Art Brooke made the introductions.
All of the speakers, he said, had a hand in finalizing a project that took more than 22 years to come to pass. Gov. Mike Beebe was the first speaker.
"This has been a dream that has died many times and has been reborn so many times," Beebe said. Some of those, he said, who started the project are no longer alive. The project, he said, has faced ups and downs. However, one important aspect, he said, was the collective effort of hundreds of people who live up and "down this corridor," referencing the service areas of Austin, Beebe, Furlow, Grand Prairie/Bayou, Jacksonville, North Pulaski, Vilonia and Ward.
Senator Mark Pryor and Senator John Boozman, as well as Congressman Tim Griffin and Congressman Rick Crawford took a turn at the microphone.
Introducing Pryor, Brooke said the senator was a "real fighter" for the water project. Self-described, Pryor said he was a "new comer," to the project. He said he had only been working on it 10 years. The effort, he said, is also a great example of local, state and federal cooperation on a project that will help thousands of people.
When Griffin spoke he referred to it as not only a water celebration but "it’s a job celebration" helping the economy.
Although they didn’t speak publicly, the audience was full of other political figures including mayors, county judges and representatives of agencies and businesses. Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin as well as Howard Williams, board member of the Vilonia Waterworks and Cecil McMurtry, manager of the Vilonia Waterworks was on hand.
Scroggin said the water project is "great" move for Faulkner County.
"It will insure Faulkner County has an adequate water supply for 30 to 40 years out," he said. "It will also free up other supplies for the rest of the county."
The construction on the Vilonia part will start immediately, said Tommy Bond, the projects head consulting engineer. The target date for completion, he said, is April 2014.
McMurtry said the water supply will also allow for growth in the Vilonia area. "We will be able to supply in times like right now without asking customers to voluntarily cutback. Our capabilities, right now, are pushed to the limit."
As a part of the project, a 24-inch pipeline is to be installed from an intake site at Cove Creek on Greers Ferry Lake. The project will include service to more than 39,000 water meters with about 80,000 people receiving services.
The project is to be financed with combined loans of about $55 million. The entities connected with this project will be responsible for the loan repayment.