In an effort to jumpstart municipal water sign-ups, McDuffie County officials announced that they will apply for a Community Development Block Grant to help offset startup costs for low to moderate income families.
Most of the affected water customers reside in the southeastern quadrant of the county.
Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said he liked the chances of McDuffie County receiving the grant, which will be administred by the Athens-based engineering firm, Precision Planning.
"We feel good about it because of the leverage we have in the area and the amount of our need," he said.
Last summer, the county applied for $8.8 million in USDA funding for the expansion of county water lines into Water District 2, which would predominantly cover the Dearing and Boneville areas.
In order to receive the funding, around 1,600 households had to switch to municipal water. Since then, the county has gotten around 1,200 signups, with one of the biggest complaints from potential water customers the size of tap-on and connections fees. The tap-on fee is currently $150.
"Hopefully it will make it easier for a lot of these folks," said Mr. Newton of the grant.
The grant could be worth up to $500,000 depending on the number of potential low to moderate income customers. If the county receives the additional funding, Mr. Newton said that not only will new low to moderate income customers not be responsible for tap-on or connection fees, but that potentially many of those same type customers who have already paid the tap-on fee will get a refund of their money.
Mr. Newton said that the recent icy weather -- which left some well owners without water -- should have reminded some potential customers that municipal water remains the most reliable source of water.
"We had a lot of people passing out water because people didn't have it," he said. "Everyone on municipal water had water. People need to keep this in mind."
The initial deadline for getting the water sign-ups was last August, but the USDA allowed the project to continue.
While the new deadline -- March 9 -- is rapidly approaching, officials hope the promise of zero sign-up costs for some customers will be enough to reach the magic number of 1,600.