By REID TUCKER
Mossy Head Water Works, Inc. commemorated the completion of a $4.6 million water system upgrade project six-and-a-half years in the making with an open-house celebration.
The massive overhaul project came via financial assistance in the form of a $2,840,000 loan and $1,841,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program. Community residents, employees’ friends and families, and state and local officials all came out for the celebration and the accompanying barbecue lunch, held Thursday, March 8, at the Water Works’ office, located on County Highway 1087.
An open-house tour followed lunch and those in attendance were invited to have a look at the revamped facilities, which include a new safe-room capable of resisting 350 mph-plus winds complete with an integrated computer control station for all wells and tanks in the water system, new office space, and a conference room. Also, more than 6,000 square feet of freshly paved asphalt for parking lots and driveways as well as new storage and shop buildings for the water works’ more expensive equipment round out some of the improvements.
Despite these more obvious renovations to the existing Water Works facilities, which grew by 1,150 square feet for the office and 1,730 square feet for storage, company president Tom Terrell said the most substantial and important changes brought about by the project are buried underground. More than 570,000 feet of new water lines is joined by three new wells and two elevated storage tanks, as well as upsizing 28 miles of distribution lines and the addition of a 200,000-gallon storage tank to balance water pressure with the end result of balancing water pressure throughout the system. Furthermore, the completion of the project has the potential to expand the system’s maximum capacity well above its current 1,310-customer base.
Terrell said the increase in capacity and the fact that now 92 percent of all his customers are within 1,000 feet of fire hydrants (of which 185 are new) were some of his long-term goals since he began with Mossy Head Water Works more than 30 years ago. He said the completion of the project made him proud of the company and the Mossy Head community, his employees and USDA.
“To be able to provide this level of service to the community was one of my dreams,” Terrell said. “We’ve reached these goals and I’m proud of that. Without this hardworking group of men and women we would never be where we are today. When you look around and compare Mossy Head to other places of similar size, we could not have done what we have been able to do without USDA. Everyone has been a blessing to work with.”
USDA Rural Development State Director Richard Machek, who was in attendance at the ceremony, said the Mossy Head expansion was in the upper end of state water system improvement projects. The simple reason, Machek explained, is that Mossy Head’s water system, the National Rural Water Association’s 2006 silver medalist for the best water quality in the U.S., has what is probably the purest water in the state of Florida.
“Everybody wants to have the best of something and a community that has some of the best water in the country deserves all the help we can give them,” Machek said. “There’s just no comparison to a spring-fed water source like Mossy Head has.”
Machek briefly told the crowd of about 30 people that the water system’s expansion could help pave the way for economic development in Walton County, something very much close to the heart of Terrell, who serves as chairman of the County’s Planning Board. The addition of new infrastructure support is critical to attracting new businesses and development to the county, Terrell said, and Mossy Head’s system now has “no problem supporting 5,000 customers.” The community’s location near airports, railroads and interstates and the border with Okaloosa County makes Mossy Head an ideal site for development, he said.
“We now have the ability for growth to take place in the Mossy Head area and beyond,” Terrell said. “Maybe now we can get some industry in the county and this community is where it needs to be. I’m hoping that we can get a jump on that development due to the infrastructure we now have in place.”