COMPTON – This tiny village of 250 in far eastern Lee County is getting more than $1.6 million to upgrade its aging water system, thanks to a bus driver turned dog groomer turned village president.
Candy Jonsson is the living embodiment of see-it-fix-it.
Because of her efforts, a $956,000 grant and a $680,000 loan from the USDA Rural Development program will be used to build a new water tower, replace water main lines and rehabilitate the well building.
Bids will be going out in March; the goal is to take down the creaky 110-year-old water tower and get to work in the summer.
Jonsson, 46, has lived in the village since 1995. She drove a local school bus for 16 years, and about 11 years into that, started working at a kennel, where she learned to be a groomer. Seven years ago, she opened up her own pet-grooming business, Dirty Dawgs in nearby Mendota.
But that funky, dilapidated, Warner Bros. cartoon water tower was really bugging her.
“We needed to improve the quality of our water,” she said Monday.
Plus, if that old tower were to go down, very few people in Compton could afford to dig their own wells, she said.
“Somebody had to do something.”
Her biggest fear: “How are we going to do this with as small a town as we are? How can we afford to do this and keep the water bills comfortable for our residents?”
She’s not an engineer, not a grant writer, not a city planner (although grooming dogs does take a lot of water).
Still, “I took the imitative, made a few phone calls, got in touch with the USDA and got the ball rolling.”
Now the village will get an upgraded water system that will cost its 136 users an extra $54 every 3 months, or $216 a year, for 40 years. That’s to pay off the loan, at 2.375 percent interest.
Bitten by the public service bug – and because “my husband [Martin] told me I couldn’t do it” – Jonsson ran for village president a year ago and won. She’ll be in office until 2021.
She’s also president of the Compton Community Club, volunteers who pitch in to make the village a better place to live by sponsoring holiday and other activities.
Since taking office, she’s brought the water department into the 21st century: no more handwritten bills, now everything’s done on the computer, and most of the town’s old broken water meters have been replaced with more accurate models.