Ninety-two-year-old Ronald McCauley holds up a glass of water while sitting in his home on West Main Street in Ville Platte. He retired last month from the same Te-Mamou Water District that he helped create in the mid-1960s. He also served as the board’s secretary-treasurer for more than five decades. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Flowing into service
Towering high over the area located between Ville Platte and Bayou Chicot is a water tower that serves the customers of the Te-Mamou Water System. The system was created in the mid-1960s in part by an individual who served the board as secretary-treasurer for five decades until he retired last month.
“It was time for me to retire,” said 92-year-old Ronald McCauley. “I was the secretary-treasurer for probably 50 years, and so it was time. I didn’t need that responsibility anymore.”
Over his time of service, McCauley was responsible for paying all the bills and for all the business aspects of the board that sets policies for the district. Some of the policies set by the board are how much the water costs and how it is handled when people do not pay their water bills. McCauley said the other policy is “all of the business aspect” of the system.
As McCauley explained, the Te-Mamou Water System was created out of a need for water. “We were out of the (Ville Platte) city limits,” he said. “The city limits used to stop right next to my house, but now it goes all the way to Teet’s. We weren’t getting any good water, so we had to have our own wells because we needed to have good water.”
Out of that need, McCauley assisted other individuals in creating their own water system. “I was working at Cabot at the time, and Red Vallot talked to me about it,” McCauley said. “I talked to my neighbor Mr. Aaron (Soileau) about it. He was interested, and I was interested. Then, we canvassed the people. We started off with about 125 customers, and today we’re at about 800.”
He continued, “We had to form a district, we had to get all of the legal papers made to make it official, and we borrowed money with the FHA (Federal Housing Association) to get it going.”
As McCauley explained, the new water district went “to Chicot Park and a mile-and-a-half or two-miles around town, and it goes all the way up to meet Turkey Creek. To the west, it goes to the road that goes to Jake Ardoin’s house, and, to the south, it goes about a mile to the flying service.”
The new district also had to select members to serve on the five-person board. Proposed board members were recommended to the Evangeline Parish Police Jury who voted to accept the recommendations.
According to McCauley, the board members are then reappointed every year on a rotating basis. He was first selected secretary-treasurer of the board about 50 years ago. “I stayed so long as secretary-treasurer because they kept putting me in the position,” he said. “It’s not that I enjoyed it, but the job had to be done. I was interested in it because it was a way of serving.”
Since the district was created, there has not been many major changes. As McCauley pointed out, “the rules are all the same.”
What has changed; though, is the size of the operation because of the addition of more customers. “We added a water tower, and we added a couple of wells,” McCauley stated. “We enlarged, and we have more capacity.”
McCauley explained why the water tower is located on U.S. Highway 167. “The water tower is on the Chicot Road,” he said, “because there’s more elevation. The higher your water tower means the higher your pressure is and the further you can serve. By putting the tower on the Chicot Road, it’s higher than we are in Ville Platte.”
Their are now four wells compared to the original two that go down and reach water from the aquifers. McCauley said, “There are some aquifers all over the place. There’s some everywhere. Some of them are 1400-feet deep, some are 500-feet, and some are 300-feet. We’re drawing water in the one that’s about 400-feet deep.”
For McCauley, it is important for the public to get involved in boards in general. He said, “People should get involved. They can complain and comment, but the boards make the decisions.”
Serving on the Te-Mamou Water Board for so long, in particular, is special for McCauley because, as he concluded, “I lived that long. I was one of the founders, and I had an interest in it because of the people we served.”