With 90 degree temperatures in the offing we are asked to conserve what we usually take for granted, so it seems appropriate to take a look at how we got here with our village utilities, as laid out in an article from the 1956 Centennial edition of the Yellow Springs News. Bear in mind that Gaunt Park was the site of the village dump at that time.
Town Pump First Utility; Now Have 1.5-Million System
From a single town pump, financed by the infant village in the 1860’s, to a system of service facilities valued at more than $1,350,000 is the history of utilities in Yellow Springs during the first century of its incorporation.
The first municipality owned and operated utilities were the muscle powered water pumps and coal oil (kerosene) or gasoline street lights. Today the village owns electric, water and sewage systems and operates a garbage collection and disposal service.
Many Town Pumps
Residents of the pre-waterworks day eventually could fill their buckets at a number of pumps throughout the village, including Walnut and Cliff Sts., Walnut and Dayton Sts., Davis and Stafford Sts., Xenia Avenue where Deaton’s Hardware is now, Dayton St. and Xenia Ave., Xenia Ave. and Woodrow St. and Marshall and Livermore Sts.
The first streetlights were erected here in 1878. A variety of fuels were used, ranging from kerosene to gasoline to coal oil. Regardless of the fuel, the method of operation was the same. The village hired a man—the fabled lamp-lighter—to refuel and light the lamps each night.
This got to be a bit of a chore for the man with his cart, for by 1896 there were over 100 streetlights in operation.
Electricity in 1910
Although there were bond issues (unsuccessful) and demands for a waterworks thirty years or so before a pumping plant was installed here, the electric utility was the first of the modern-day utilities established.
The first electric power used here was turned on April 28, 1910, snapping electricity into 60 carbon-filament streetlights and the newly-wired Opera House. The power arrangement was paid for through a $6,000 bond issue.
The post office and a number of downtown business houses were the next in line to receive electric power.
At that time, the village was receiving electricity from a small Cedarville power plant. In 1915, the Cedarville plant sold out to the Dayton Power and Light Co., which fed the power to the distributing system here.
In 1930 the contract with the DP&L expired and the village bought electricity from the power plant at Antioch College, which had been supplying some of its own power and added more generators to service the village.
By 1937, the load was increasing to the point that the college bought a 300 horsepower diesel engine to double the plant capacity.
But in 1948, the power needs of the village grew too large for the college plant and a contract was again signed with the Dayton power company.
1165 Electricity Users
Today there are 1165 homes and businesses in the village supplied with electricity.
The electric distribution utility here is not taxed. But the assessment for government purposes recently estimated the value of the utility at $775,000.
In the early days streetlights burned only until midnight, when the power was turned off and the few late-living residents dropped into darkness. Later, power was turned on Monday mornings as well as at sundown, so that housewives with new electric washing machines might do the week’s wash.
Eventually, electrical gadgetry became so advanced that a clock was rigged to turn the streetlights on and off, the lights burned all night and electricity was supplied to homes 24 hours a day.
Long before the first switch was thrown in the Yellow Springs electric system, there were movements for a waterworks here to supply pure water and adequate fire protection. But it was not until 1927 that a $52,000 bond issue for building a water works and mains was approved by voters.
Wells “Filthy” in 1881
Way back in February of 1891 local doctors, professors and students cried “filth” after investigation of public wells. A letter to the REVIEW editor demanded a “pure water supply system.” The doctor maintained that only “cast iron stomachs” had saved the town from ruination and epidemic. That fall, the village council discussed the costs of a standpipe and pump. The REVIEW editor commented then “talk is cheap—but there will very likely be more than talk in the future.”
In 1895, following several block-gutting fires, the village citizens considered a waterworks in special elections. It was repeatedly turned down. One election—on Oct. 4, 1895—saw the waterworks proponents lose their battle by one vote. With 171 votes for a $23,000 waterworks operation and 87 against, the waterworks proponents were one vote shy of the necessary two thirds majority.
Passage was not secrued until the 1920’s.
Waterworks in 1928
In 1927 work was started on the first part of the village waterworks, with a pumphouse at Whitehall Farm. On Sept. 28, 1928, the first tap was made at Whitehall.
The village water utility is now valued at an estimated $300,000. There are now two well fields, the original station north of the village and the other built in 1953 to the southeast on the Faye Funderburg farm. The latest wellfield cost about $18,000 for boring operations and pumping machinery.
There is one 100,000 gallon storage tank (on High St.), as well as machinery to pump, filter and chlorinate the water. Daily water consumption generally runs between 300,000 and 500,000 gallons. The two pumping stations can reach a capacity of about 800,000 gallons a day.
Sanitary Sewers in 1938
The sewage system is a recent development, turned over to the village board of Public Affairs only July 1, 1938, after completion. But outdoor privies had already been outlawed in the village in the 1860’s although the law was not observed.
The total cost of the system came to about $130,000, with a direct village appropriation of $32,000. Most of the work was done as a New Deal Works Project. Administration project. With $96,000 in WPA attributed.
The site for the disposal plant was donated by Hugh Taylor Birch after Glen Helen was proposed as possible sites. Birch also donated $8,200 to cover the extra cost involved in putting the disposal site at its present site rather than in the glen.
The college contributed its system to the village utility, retaining a $6,000 outstanding debt on its system and contributing another $1,388 for obtaining right of way and title to the land used for the disposal plant.l
The sewage system, including the disposal plant, is currently valued for tax purposes at $275,000.
Present plans call for moving the plan down the hill into Glen Helen, as soon as finances permit. The move would eliminate the need of a pumping station to pump the sewage uphill.
Garbage Collection Begun
The subject of municipal garbage collection was first brought up in village council here in 1929, six years after the village dump was opened. It was not until Feb. 29, 1954, that the first official garbage collection was made with a spanking-new garbage packer truck.
The village had pretty well filled its dump by 1954 and according to a statement made by Kahoe at that time, “we now have to do otherwise than in the past.”
Since 1954 garbage collections have been hauled to the Xenia land-fill. The village council has now budgeted for a new disposal site and lawyers are now working on condemning and buying the property.
Funds have also been budgeted for purchase of a new, larger packer truck. The budget call for purchase next year.