Purchase photos

Water flowing to rural residents

11/24/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

They received the money. Their part of the deal was to provide the sweat equity.

Rural residents in southwest and southern Ellis County started the process in August 2010 of having drinkable water in their homes by contacting Elmer Ronnebaum and Rita Clary of the Kansas Rural Water Association.

The KRWA told them to apply for a grant. Once they received a $300,000 KAN STEP Community Development Block Grant for waterline improvements -- which allowed two years to complete a project -- the volunteers started digging on June 27, and finished the 12-mile pipeline project in three months; the entire project was completed in four months.

The project had 42 volunteers.

"A lot of volunteers came from our area," said Ernie Leiker, who owns land in Ellis County Rural Water District 1-C.

The grant provided the money, but volunteers provided the physical labor. In addition, the cost for materials, engineering, grant administration and assistance from the KRWA was provided through the Department of Commerce. Corina Cox of Northwest Kansas Planning & Development Corporation also helped move the process along. Doug Guenther of KRWA supervised the laying of the pipe by the volunteers.

Trego County Rural Water District No. 2, supplier of water for the Ellis County district, approved the addition of 11 meters; five of them were on property where owners had to haul drinking water. Leiker's farm was one of them.

Leiker, a third generation farmer on the land, has seen members of his family haul drinking water since the late 1970s. Finally, he moved to town and just stayed at the farm during the summer.

"For 20 years, my wife and four kids, we moved out there for three months in the summertime; we do farming," he said. "When my boy got married, he lived out there for six years."

But after dealing with the water issues for that long, his son moved to town three years ago, Leiker said.

"It's been vacant for three years, but now me and my wife are going to be moving out there," Leiker said.

Having drinkable water is a "relief," Leiker said.

"I don't have to worry about the water," he said.

"If we hadn't got this grant, him and four others wouldn't have water," said Laren Leiker, Ernie's second cousin.

Laren Leiker had drinking water at his farm, but low water pressure. That's no longer the case.

"Twenty pounds more now in our area than before this was done," he said.

Laren Leiker persevered through the long process.

"Don't ever give up," he said. "If you think there's a way, there's a will."

Laren and Ernie Leiker said they were thankful for several people and governmental bodies for their help, and they took out a thank-you ad to express their gratitude publicly.

"We had some good people helping us," Laren Leiker said.

The KAN STEP grant paid off in a big way, they said.

"Without KAN STEP, (Ernie Leiker) wouldn't be moving into his house; my son wouldn't be building his house out in the country where we live," Laren Leiker said. "The grant was just a blessing. Without the grant, we wouldn't have water."

Laren Leiker said both he and Ernie Leiker learned something through the process.

"Without a challenge, there is no purpose," Laren Leiker said.