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Clock ticks at Miller Pond over water

Now that the Rock Hill city manager has ordered his "professional staff" to begin the process of cutting off the water in Miller Pond starting Monday, resident John McGoye on Thursday ordered his own "professional staff" to take counter-measures.

"I'm doing the laundry," McGoye said. "I am the professional staff. I better get all the laundry done, too - might not be doing washing Monday."

Then boom, the torpedo hit the city amidships. Before the day ended, several of McGoye's neighbors had filed a lawsuit claiming the city has acted in manners that are "capricious," "unlawful" and "predatory," "discriminatory" and the best adjective of all "vindictive."

On Wednesday, Rock Hill leaders called a news conference to announce there would be no deals.

City Manager Carey Smith again stated that Miller Pond residents agreed when they bought homes to be annexed when the city decided to annex.

The city released documents to prove what Miller Pond people had for the most part been admitting anyway. Sure there were documents, started in motion by the property developer a dozen years ago, before there were homes.

That agreement: The city will run water, Miller Pond will have city water and pay through the nose for it, then agree to be annexed when the city was good and ready.

The city is now ready.

All that was missing from this stand-off is Miller Pond's Maginot Line of portable toilets and well-drilling estimates to separate itself from the city.

"A well won't be cheap," McGoye said, "but it beats city water after how they have handled this thing."

His neighbor, John Zimmerman, obtained an estimate for a well, too, as did many others.

At Miller Pond, the city of Rock Hill has single-handedly kick-started the local economy: Four well-drilling companies have posted signs and flyers vying for business. The signs are next to the portable toilet that has become the focal point of outrage against a city that has tin ears.

"Miller Pond - the stimulus," joked Zimmerman, who also was planning to wash every piece of clothing in his house before the water runs dry.

The City Council and its management staff has held closed-door meetings to discuss this water topic and why people should respect legal authority and agree to annexation. All legal, the city states. Look it up. Here are the documents.

Some might recall a few years ago, in 2006, federal courts ruled that the name "Jesus Christ" could not be specifically used in pre-meeting prayers held by governments such as the City Council.

The case that affected the entire country came from Great Falls, in Chester County. Many did not like this, but it was the legal rule as defined by a legal document of some standing - the U.S. Constitution.

Rock Hill City Councilman Kevin Sutton delivered loudly at a meeting a prayer that included not just Jesus, but referenced Christmas, too - and he wasn't scared of the ACLU or anybody else because he "didn't do anything wrong."

Except defy those pesky legal documents.

All except the city know now the Miller Pond residents are fighting now not just over water - but because of the way the city has handled this situation.

Some words describing the city's approach have been "heavy-handed" and "force" and "bludgeon." By the way: Those words came from Rep. Gary Simrill, County Council Chairman Buddy Motz and county manager Jim Baker - not Miller Pond residents.

But the Miller Pond people still laugh together and meet. The past weeks of water wars have turned what was a cozy neighborhood of people who live near each other into something else entirely - close friends bound by common purpose.

"This has brought the neighborhood together, no question" said McGoye. "People ask about each other, are making plans for what to do together for when the water is turned off. Might be showers together."

Nothing changed with the city's stance Thursday, according to spokeswoman Lyn Garris.

However, Miller Pond changed a little. Residents gave interviews to Charlotte TV stations that usually only have killings to report, so they come here for lighter news of a city stopping water for kids' baths.

Kids rode bicycles and adults waved to strangers and each other.

There was a neighborhood meeting in the evening under a lovely sky turning to dusk.

Flags were placed at the first five homes on Creekbridge Drive Thursday by city utilities, signifying the first five homes slated to lose water on Monday.

Homeowners such as Zimmerman opened up the mail and found letters from the city that reiterate the Monday deadline - and that if they ask for reconnection after the water is turned off, they will pay a re-connect fee, to boot.

"In advance of cutting off the water, they are telling us they will charge me to turn it back on," said Zimmerman.

Most Miller Pond people went to work Thursday. The ones at home, some of these Miller Pond neighbors, stood in the grass almost dead from no rain for weeks.

A couple flagged down the well-drilling trucks rumbling by to ask when they could get an estimate done. People asked neighbors if they needed a cold drink.

There were laughs and handshakes.

That's what neighbors do - look out for each other when somebody tries to sneak into the place to hit you over the head, using a legal document as a lead pipe.