Winona is a city in the state of Texas. The small town is three miles north of Owentown in northeastern Smith County. With a population of around 576 residents, the town dates back to 1870 when it was established on the old Shreveport-Dallas Road. Later that decade, Winona became a stop on the railroad, a branch line running from Tyler, Texas.

Winona residents depend on the Starrville Water Supply Corporation (WSC) for safe and clean water. The Starrville WSC started on April 24, 1998, when General Manager, Hattie Miller, moved to the area and noticed that the town needed a water company. She had faith in her backbone and took it upon herself to create a water supply company. Hattie educated herself on how to run a water system properly. Residents of the area started developing a personal relationship with Hattie because they were coming to her home to pay their bills and take care of their accounts. Hattie Miller was synonymous with Starrville, WSC and the residents of Winona. Today, Starrville WSC has moved out of Hattie’s home and is now located about 0.5 miles from Interstate 20. Currently, Starrville Water Supply Corporation has 351 customers.

Starrville Water Supply Corporation
Starrville Water Supply Corporation has served it's customers for over 25 years and has recently added two large commercial customers

The residents of this community have relied on Starrville WSC for over twenty-five years. Through the years, the Starrville Water Supply Corporation has worked with Communities Unlimited (CU) to stay compliant with the state of Texas requirements.

Over the years, the system has continued to grow, and CU continues to provide services to Hattie and the system. When Starrville grew to have 250 connections, a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) requirement stated that Starrville must have a second water source, either an interconnect with a neighboring system or drill a second well. Communities Unlimited and Hattie gathered their heads and decided to drill a new well. In 2015, CU started working with Starrville WSC on a letter of Conditions (LOC) from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assist with a Deep Well and Pump project.

Starrville WSC was planning for the community’s future and knew that they needed financial assistance from CU, and the first step was to start drilling on the new well. Hattie and Communities Unlimited continued to work together so the community could continue to rely on Starrville WSC. Just like many times in her past, Hattie took the responsibility to see the project through for the benefit of her community. Starrville began construction on the new well in the fall of 2016, and was completed in early 2017.

Drilling the well allowed Starrville WSC the ability to support upcoming projects in the community. In April 2021, CU’s East Texas Regional Coordinator, Tom Fulton, and Environmental Services Area Director West Region, Harold Hunter, worked with Starrville WSC on a project to add an RV Park/Resort and a Loves Truck Stop to their system. The Loves Truck Stop and the RV Park/Resort brought new revenue opportunities to the community. “CU provided technical assistance, creating a commercial rate structure that has revolutionized Starrville WSC’s income.” Harold shared. The RV Park is located on Interstate 20 and has 171 RV spaces, an office, and a concession setup. The convenience store offers Subway and Godfather’s Pizza. “It will be a good partner for the community,” Tom explained.

Hattie Miller
Hattie Miller, General Manager at Starrville Water Supply Corporation, started the corporation out of her house 25 years ago.

Starrville WSC’s relationship with CU expanded beyond technical assistance from the Environmental Team. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Starrville WSC worked with Communities Unlimited, Director of Lending, Bryn Bagwell, to complete a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan.

In April of 2022, CU worked with Starrville WSC on their Board Training and assisted them in getting funding to paint their water tank. In early 2023, the WSC received a loan to paint the water tank.

In a project that began in September 2021, Communities Unlimited Geographic Information System (GIS) Team worked with Hattie on a program to receive GIS services. In June 2022, Communities Unlimited, Community Environmental Management Technician Irma Schultz, and the GIS Team visited Starrville WSC to complete their water system mapping project.

In July 2022, Irma Schultz spoke with Starrville WSC General Manager Hattie Miller about some safety concerns. Traffic flows are constantly going east and west, close to the WSC. The busy intersection made Hattie nervous about being alone at the remote water supply company location. Hattie had experienced groups of individuals stopping by her office and asking for directions. She feared the busy area, including two picnic areas, could lead to equipment theft and the potential for customer payments to be stolen. She was concerned about being alone and robbed with no one to help her.

In August 2022, CU attended a monthly meeting, discussed the dangerous area along the interstate, and suggested security doors and a camera system. The Board discussed the safety of members and agreed to check into pricing for security. The Board voted to install the security doors, windows, and cameras at the water supply corporation office building in September 2022.

Hattie was beyond excited about the increased safety measures and credits Irma’s work in researching the proper equipment for her peace of mind at the water supply office building. Starrville WSC staff are now safe and secure to work on their daily duties to continue providing safe drinking water for their community.

“Hattie is a superhero. She may not wear a cape, but that is what she is. She is a one-of-a-kind woman. She is phenomenal; her spirit is always upbeat. You give her a problem, and she works on finding a solution.”

— Irma Schultz, Communities Unlimited

Hattie Miller is one of the founders of Starrville WSC and is not stopping anytime soon. She is dedicated to continuing to deliver safe water to Starrville WSC customers. Her meter reading routine can show Hattie’s commitment to her community. For nearly twenty years, Hattie drove her personal vehicle to take meter readings on very rough roads; there was no company vehicle to rely on. It was not until 2022 that 16 radio meters were approved. These meters allow Hattie to avoid driving on the three main roads hindering her ability to continue reading the meters in her personal vehicle.

Starrville Water Supply Corporation recently added 2 large commercial customers to it's residential water services

Starrville WSC recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with a picnic for customers.

“Communities Unlimited has always been supportive. They’ve always been there from day one.” Hattie Miller said.

Starrville WSC had come a long way from when the water system operated out of Hattie’s house to where they are today. They now have GIS Maps of their system, remote meters, a security system, a second water source, and are supplying water to two major commercial customers. Hattie’s dedication to the people of her community has allowed Starrville WSC to support growth in the area.

Starrville has had many achievements since it's formation 25 years ago and continues working with Communities Unlimited to prepare for it's future.

Robert Brooks, President of Starrville WSC, says, “Hattie and I both grew up in this area. I never dreamed we would have the luxury of a community water system. I look for us to keep growing into the future with residential and commercial customers.”

CU continues to work with Starrville Water Supply Corporation to ensure they have everything in line for their community’s future success.

Harold concluded, “I continue to say that Starrville is one of the best managed small rural water systems in Texas, with a desktop computer and flip phones.”