GF Council passes new rate scale for water customers
GREEN FOREST -- A water rate increase that will mostly impact high users in the north rural and east rural areas was passed during a Monday council meeting to become effective as of March 2007.
Although the average user in the city limits of Green Forest will see a $3.15 increase on their water bill, the biggest change was made to the rates associated with the number of gallons used at residences in the north rural extension, which is located between the city limits and the Enon bridge, and the east rural extension, which is located between the city limits and Alpena.
Residents in this area have been receiving a break for any usage over 2,000 gallons, while residents in the city limits have been receiving their break after using 29,000 gallons.
The new rate scale gives all high users a price reduction once reaching the 29,000 gallon mark, the 170,000 mark and the 200,000 gallon mark.
A third rate scale was formed for residents outside the city limits, which includes some residences on South Springfield, houses on U.S. Hwy. 62 towards the Las Cazuelas Mexican Restaurant, plus some residences on Ark. Hwy. 103 North. Those minimum rates, along with residents inside the city limits were raised from $11 to $14.
Also residents will see a separate line item on their monthly bill for a 65 cent franchise fee, which will be deposited into the general fund for city parks and police and fire equipment.
These fees have always been in place, said Public Works Director Buddy Fry. Now, they will just be allocated into a separate line item so the resident can see that these fees do not go to the water department.
The council decided to change the water rate price scale after Susan Poe, groundwater technician from the Arkansas Rural Water Association, recommended an increase because she said the water department had lost $200,000 within the last year.
Fry said the new rates will enable the water department to stand on its own, and estimated that they will generate an increase of $171,000. "But as we all know last year was very dry, so if it is cooler than it might be less," added Fry.
He said since the budgets for the water and sewer had been "lumped together" it was hard to accurately budget for the water department.
Mayor Richard Deweese then emphasized the importance of separating the two accounts, saying if they had been segregated years ago, then the sewer plant would have possibly had the money for an up-coming, state-mandated, $7 million project that will be paid part by Tyson Foods and part by the city.
Deweese said the money that the sewer department has been using to keep the water department afloat could have probably paid for half of the city's portion of these upgrades, but since that did not happen the project would have to be funded by either state grants or by a bond passed by voters.
"If we separate the accounts now, we can show it to the state and maybe get grant funding," said Deweese.
After Fry explained that the new water rates "were still substantially lower than other municipalities," the council unanimously voted to adopt the new rates.
In other business, a resolution to add "no parking" signs to Ember Drive, located behind the fire department, was tabled until developer Tom Riddle and Fire Chief Chris Trask discuss other options.
Riddle, who is currently constructing residences on Ember Drive, said it was "unreasonable" and "counterproductive" of the council to not allow even a Fed-Ex truck to park on the street to deliver a package.
However, since fire trucks use Ember Drive to respond to emergency situations, Deweese explained that even a two-minute wait for a vehicle to be moved could effect someone's life.
Trask and Riddle will discuss the issue further and report back to the council next month.
Also at the meeting, Planning and Zoning Chairman Charley Coats told council members that the loading dock at Powell's Feed Store was blocking Thorne Street, and therefore was in violation of ordinances.
"A school bus having to back up and turn around is dangerous, and it has become a safety issue," explained Coats, who added that owner Kirk Powell "will do whatever the city wants him to do."
After a lengthy discussion, Deweese said that he, Police Chief John Bailey, and Coats would set a time to meet at the feed store to come up with a remedy for the situation.
Also at the meeting, the council voted to accept the invitation for the city water tower to be nominated for listing in the national register of historic places, and voted to appoint newly-elected Alderman Janet Jones, who began serving immediately.
The next agenda council meeting is expected to be held Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in city hall.