By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Rain poured outside the Oakvale Ruritan Building, but the community gathered inside to celebrate the completion of Phase IV A of the Mercer/Summers Water Project. The completion of the project means that 370 Oakvale area residents now have clean drinking water in their homes.
“I’m very proud of this,” Pamela Browning, manager of the Oakvale Road Public Service District, said in her welcoming remarks at the ceremony. She said that the most important lesson she learned during the process was: “I do not take for granted the water that comes out of my faucet.”
Browning wasn’t alone in her excitement over the completion of Phase IV A. Sean Graves, director of operations of West Virginia American Water, recalled growing up in the small Putnam County town of Buffalo without having clean drinking water. “In the mid-’90s we got water,” he said. “It is a privilege to serve.”
Stacy Fowler, P.E., project manager with Stafford Consultants Inc., also related a personal story about the impact that clean drinking water has on a community. He said that his wife is from an urban area of Florida, but when she accompanied him to another similar ceremony, she was moved by the way that the community was happy about clean drinking water, but also for having water for fire protection.
“Thank everyone,” Fowler said, and added that he is ready to “move on to Phase IV B,” he said.
“Most of what I do is intangible,” William Winfrey II, a well-known Mercer County attorney said. He explained that people come to him seeking help for their legal problems and he helps them, but it’s not the same thing as making a difference in a community. “Now, when I drive through your community and see a fire hydrant, I can point to that and say: ‘That’s good.’”
Kevin Meadows, community development specialist II of the West Virginia Development Office congratulated the community. “I see, every day, the need for water all over the state,” Meadows said.
Sherry Adams, project manager of the Huntington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, expressed thanks to U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., for his ongoing commitment to the program. “Without him, this project wouldn’t be,” she said. She added: “We get to see this from beginning to the end. It makes us feel good to see the faces of the people this project will serve.”
“In order to do a water project in West Virginia, you have to want a water project,” Kimberly Gross, regional representative of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. Reading from Tomblin’s prepared remarks, Gross said: “Changes will bring a better quality of life to the citizens.”
David Cole, director of the Region I Planning & Development Council represented Rahall at the ceremony. He read from Rahall’s remarks that recapped the development of the project during the past nearly two years. Rahall wrote that when the valve is turned, “there will be many fingerprints on it.”
Mike Browning, regional representative of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said that he learned the importance that a water system can make to a community when he interviewed a mayor of Gilbert about their new water project. Browning was a reporter at the time. He read Manchin’s remarks that indicated that a water project “is an investment in our people and it’s future.”
Through no fault of his own, Gene Buckner of the Mercer County Commission, understood that the ceremony was scheduled for noon, and arrived moments after the formal valve turning. “This is a great thing for the community,” Buckner said.
H.C. Warren, chairman of the Oakvale Road PSD said the project cost about $7.2 million. “Residents were hooked up as soon as the services reached their homes,” he said. “They’re hooked up and served with water.”
Browning said that construction on the project started in the fall of 2011 and was completed in June.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org