ARMONA — After almost 10 years, Armona has rescinded a moratorium on new water connections, opening up the possibility for growth and development in the small community.
“Things are looking up,” Jim Maciel, chairman of the Armona Community Services District, said. “It’s starting to blossom after a lot of years of being dormant.”
Back in 2008, Maciel said engineers determined that the community’s water supply was unable to support new housing connections, so Armona had to cap-off the connections it had and essentially halt other development within the community until additional water became available.
Armona residents have had some of the highest water rates in the state in an effort to get better water. It’s taken a while and there were challenges and frustration, but the plans finally came to fruition recently.
Last September, the district completed a new well and water treatment facility that has been providing residents of Armona with some of the highest quality water in the state, Maciel said.
The water was safe before, but Maciel said the treatment facility has taken care of some of the secondary issues, such as color, taste and odor. He said the water is now of “outstanding quality” and he gets comments from residents saying it’s the best water they’ve ever had there.
“We have crystal clear water,” Maciel said. “Our water is every bit as good as what you get in a bottle that you buy in a store.”
Along with two existing wells, the new well and treatment facility has made it possible to provide fire protection and water for an additional 635 homes, Maciel said.
Maciel said this will enable the Armona north subdivision to be fully developed, which has around 300 additional homes planned.
He also said a new 15-unit townhouse development is under review at the Kings County Community Development Department and said he knows of more developers interested in building housing developments in Armona now that the water will no longer be a detriment.
Supervisor Craig Pedersen, whose district encompasses Armona, said he is proud of what the district has been able to accomplish with its water treatment facility. He said there will now be commercial opportunities to bring more rooftops and housing.
Donna Clemons, who is also on the Armona Community Services District board, said the first thing people think of when they think about Armona is bad quality water. With that issue out of the way, she believes it will truly bring population growth and affordable housing developments.
“We’re a viable alternative to Hanford or Lemoore,” Clemons said, adding it is a very welcoming community.
Clean water isn’t the only change that has happened in Armona.
Kings County completed a paved walking path linking the Armona north subdivision with the core of Armona at 14th Avenue and Front Street.
Maciel said this allows people to walk to the central part of Armona without having to walk on Front Street, which he said is a heavily-traveled road.
Though he said it may not look like much, the pathway is being used and has added to the overall safety of pedestrians by getting them off the roadway.
Pedersen, who grew up in Armona and went to elementary school there, said it’s sometimes hard to find funding for the unincorporated and underprivileged area after paying for fire and police services. He said he’s glad the county has been able to help with small, but important projects like the walking path and crosswalks for students to get safely to school.
“It’s great and I hope we can do more of that type of thing in Armona,” Maciel said. “Eventually maybe get some curbs and gutters and sidewalks.”
Maciel said once the well and water treatment facility went on line, it seems like other things have been falling into place.
“It’s looking good, the community is starting to get better,” Maciel said. “It’s going through this transformation-type thing. We’re starting to look more positive all the time; things are happening in town and we’re just real happy about what’s going on in our town.”
Maciel said he is proud that residents approved the additional water fees, which showed the state that the community would be able to afford to support the well and treatment facility. He said without the residents’ willingness to pay, the district would still be having trouble with the state water board.
“I’m proud to live in Armona and proud of our people,” Maciel said, adding the next hurdle is being able to reduce water rates for residents. “I think our little town is starting to flourish a little bit.”
The Armona Community Services District is proud of the accomplishments and believes growth is headed in the right direction.
“I wouldn’t consider living anywhere else,” Clemons said.