Madison County is on the verge of expanding its water services.

County commissioners signed a sales contract Tuesday that will allow the county to take over the water plant previously operated by the London Correctional Institution (LoCI). With the new access to water, services will be expanded west and north of London using the plant which holds 1.5 million gallons of water.

“This is a big step for Madison County,” said county administrator, Rob Slane. “Not only will it be a boost to our service area, but it will be a huge step in the way of economic development for the county.”

The project began four years ago when the county was approached by LoCI, a division of the state’s Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC), to take over the plant for the price of $1.

“It came down to a change in philosophy for them,” Slane said. “They wanted to be in the business of corrections rather than in the business of water/wastewater management.”

For the first two of the four years, the two entities couldn’t reach a detailed deal. Then, two years ago, the county purchased a parcel of land at the northwest corner of State Route 42 and Interstate 70 with the intention of putting a water tower there. That plan never came to fruition, but the county did reach a deal with the DRC.

“We will be able to run lines out S.R. 56 through Summerford and possibly to Lake Choctaw,” said Slane. Choctaw residents have also discussed the possibility of having their own water plant but no decision has been made. “Then also out Rt. 38 to the Farm Science Review area, into Lafayette, then up Rt. 42 to I-70 to Rt. 29.” The county will take over all three water towers associated with the prisons as well as all their wells and equipment.

Prior to this deal, the county controlled all the utilities in the area between U.S. 40 and I-70, with the exception of water.

“Now we’ll be able to offer services to businesses in the area around Rt. 42 and 70. That would include new businesses who want to build or existing businesses at the Truck Stop,” Slane said. He added the county’s goal is to attract some light manufacturing business that would hopefully bring higher paying jobs to the area.

“That has a trickle-down effect. If we can get more jobs that pay higher wages, then people could potentially have more disposable income that could go to future restaurants and other businesses,” he said. “It is always a balance of trying to have higher numbers of households to bring in business, but you need higher wages so people can take advantage of what does come in.”

With the sales contract now signed, Slane said the lines could be in place and ready in the next 18-24 months.

“Bringing water to these areas could be a major catalyst for the county,” he added. “It could be the start of great economic growth for us.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners attempted to make a final decision for the fate of the courthouse clock but have to vote again next Tuesday after re-evaluating their price quotes. Initially, the commissioners approved a measure to get the original clock back to the courthouse, but dollar figures assigned to it were incorrect.

Phil Wright, a clock specialist in South Charleston, is currently in possession of the clock and has had it since the tornado in 1974. He has given several options for restoration — a decision the commissioners will look at during next Tuesday’s meeting.

According to Administrator Slane, the options are as follows:

• Complete restoration including the original clock mechanism, new faces and hands – $120,000

• New faces and hands and using the original clock mechanism, but making it work “as is” – $90,000

• New faces and hands and repairing existing clock mechanism – $58-60,000

• Replacing the clock with a brand new clock mechanism, using existing hands and faces – $28,000

• Replacing the clock with a brand new clock mechanism, using existing hands and faces, making bell work – $32,000.