Reese Shifflett, 52, wears a back brace and has spent most of the last three years in the hospital, but come Monday morning he vows he'll stand on his water meter and not move until he's carried off.
He is one of the least 45 home owners in Manassas Park who are protesting the tripling of their June-July water bills by refusing to pay, and who on Monday will be without water if the city carries out its order to shut off their supply.
Some Manassas Park residents have begun to store water, scout for clean service station lavatories or order portable toilets to be placed in their front yards, according to Allen Young, spokesman for the Concerned Citizens of the City of Manassas Park.
Others have poured honey and molasses over their water meters hoping to deter or at least inconvenience city workers when they seek to carry out the disconnect order Monday, Young said.
The radical increase in water rates was the result of a $42 million cost overrun in the construction of an $84 million regional sewage treatment plant, as well as long and costly delays in opening the facility.
Manassas Park had purchased a share of the plant's capacity based on projections of the city's population that proved to be too large. Thus the city was committed to a larger share than it needed.
Before Manassas Park taped into the plant the average annual water-sewage bill for a family was $130. After the hook-up, it jumped to $528. In the face of an earlier public protest, City Council shaved $140,000 from its utilities budget, reducing the annual water-sewage rate to about $370 per family, a figure many Manassas Park residents say is still too high.
In addition to the 45 families refusing to pay their June-July water bill 500 persons have signed a petition calling for a reduction in the water rates and for state and federal relief.
Manassas Park, with a population of about 9,600 has an average family income of about $20,000 and there are many who make well below that figure, according to City Treasurer Jerry Davis. For some, the new water bills have threatened to force them to leave the community.
"We're going to have to move," said Shifflett. "Water was something that was free. The good Lord put it here for us," said Shifflett who lives with his wife Mattie on a $843-a-month income and faces a $53 June-July water bill. He said he is both unwilling and unable to pay.
His wife has purchased 24 quarter containers and is already stockpiling water in the freezer and refrigerator and planning to fill the bath tub and washer on Sunday night.
"I'm willing to go to the service station and use their commode," said Mattie Shifflett. She said neighbours have offered to let them use their water.
The protest over water in Manassas Park promises to get worse before it gets better. At least 250 households have not yet paid their August-September bill, which was due two days ago.
In three weeks the water is scheduled to be cut off to the 80-unit Out-look Condominium, which has refused to pay its July bill, and may of its residents say they will go without water so long it takes for relief to come their way.
One of them, 28-year-old Barbara Soltis, said: "I'll line up at the rest rooms at City Hall with all the other women here. I'll haul water from City Hall to cook with. I'll take my Lysol and scour their little sinks and bathe my Christine there." Soltis, an expectant mother, lives with her preschoolage daughter Christine and her husband on a $13,000-a-year income.
She said they simply can not afford to pay the $70 water bill for June and July.