FLAT,TX — When the City of Gatesville was pulled into a dispute between a rural water system and the federal government, the City told those water customers it might shut off the water by end of the first week in October if something wasn't done.
Not only did people in Flat do something, they might just save their community.
The place they call "The Flats" isn't very pretty, but you might say it's gone a little "flat."
"The only thing really left is the Flat Water System, our church, a masonic lodge and a post office," explained Carlos Webb, a proud member of the First Baptist Church here, who knew he had to take action when nobody else would.
It started when the United States Department of Agriculture demanded payment in full of a loan of more than $100,000.
The demand letter didn't go to the Flat Water Association.
"Flat Water people did not come to me. The USDA sent that letter to the city," said Gatesville City Manager Bill Parry.
Years ago, Gatesville agreed to take over billing and maintenance, but not its reporting to state and federal government. Flat didn't do that, triggering recall of the loan.
Parry had no choice but to let Flat customers know, giving them a deadline early this month.
"We're not gonna leave 'em hanging on the first of October or the 5th of October, but they do need to make some decisions about governance, and start movin' forward," he explained.
They needed to act fast.
People in Flat who had already seen their school and their businesses, their community really, disappear knew they couldn't let that happen to their water system or their church- the two things that still bring them together.
So Webb got the Flat community into a meeting, just like he does with first Wednesday church suppers, where people found common purpose.
"We've formed a committee to see what avenues that we would be able to do," he said.
Next they'll vote on a board, which will decide what steps to take from there. The new board could operate the water system, get a contractor to do it or merge with a neighboring rural water system.
All those steps would comply with the loan terms and stop the repayment demand.
"It's important to the members here at The Flat that we have our own water system, and have it in Flat's name to represent the Flat community," said Webb.
And people here learned, it's important for people in the Flat community to represent themselves.