In November 2007, a $2 million grant was approved by the county to run city waterlines through the Smith area. Bobs Creek was originally included in the plans for city water, but due to a low number of residents who signed up, they were left out of the final plans to get the waterlines. According to Cawood Water District finance office Lana Pace, it would simply be too expensive to run waterlines through an area to which there is not a high demand.
"We tried to have a project to extend the waterlines, and we simply did not get enough interest out of that area to do so. A lot of people don't realize what a hardship it would put on us to try and get waterlines ran through an area like Bobs Creek, where there is not a high demand at all in getting city water. There were two people that signed up out of that area to get water. That's simply not enough people interested to get the job done. You simply have to have a high interest out of any community to get them waterlines," Pace said. "We ran ad after ad in the newspaper to get the word out, and we just didn't get a good response from that. We did our best to let people know if you want city water, come and sign up, and that didn't happen."
However, James and Maxine Claiborne, who are residents of Bobs Creek, say they signed a petition showing their interest in getting city water.
"We did sign what we were supposed to in order to get water. They sent people out here with a paper for us to sign, and we signed it. That's all we were told to do, and we did it. The people of Bobs Creek are for the most part forgotten. We have five families who are currently sharing the same waterline. That is absolutely uncalled for. We can't even get cable in this area, and I think that's ridiculous as well," Maxine Claiborne said.
Other residents in the Bobs Creek area echo the feelings of the Claibornes, saying that they were promised new waterlines. Tammy Couch, who is also a local resident, says that was a promise that was never fulfilled.
"I have been trying to get water here for 10 years. We were promised that we were going to be included in the Smith project, but obviously that was a lie. Two families here in Bobs Creek already paid deposits to get city water, and now they tell us we're not gonna be included. The water we have here now is just awful. It constantly freezes in the wintertime, and when you got two kids in school, that is something very hard to deal with, not to mention the fact that the water I have is rusted. They do strip mining in this area, and that's certainly not good for the water," Couch said.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop responded by saying the fiscal court is willing to work with the people of Bobs Creek to help them get city water.
"There is a water managment council that approves projects submitted by each water district. Their main criteria is the population density, cost per household and income per household. The ultimate decision lies with the Cawood Water District about who is signed up to get water. However, we are very willing to make sure that area receives city water just like the other districts in this county. We would even be willing to dig the pipelines if they could provide the pipe that would be needed. That would cut down on the cost tremendously. Our goal is to get 95 percent of the water districts running. I think that is a very obtainable goal for us to have at this point," Grieshop said.
Magistrate Jim Roddy could not be reached for comment.