Green Forest Council passes sewer rate hike

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

GREEN FOREST -- The City Council Monday night reluctantly passed an ordinance which will increase sewer rates, especially for larger users.

Ordinance 2007-588 was passed on all three readings, and an emergency clause was invoked, making the ordinance effective immediately. The new rates will not come into play until January, however, and will not show up until February bills.

Wastewater Supervisor Shawn Raglin explained that chemicals required to keep the sewer plant in compliance are very expensive, especially distilled vinegar, which is used as a carbon source to help keep nitrate levels down. The operation also requires large amounts of alum and sodium hydroxide.

Raglin said staying within the required levels of phosphorous and nitrates has been a constant and expensive battle, totaling about $70,000 per month. "We're going broke fast,"?he said.

Residential and industrial users have had only slight increases in the last 20 years. Under the new ordinance, residential customers will have the same minimum charge of $7.30 per month, which includes 2,000 gallons. The next 98,000 gallons will increase from $1.97 per thousand to $2.47.

Amounts over 100,000 gallons will cost $2.88 per thousand, up from $1.05. Those increases will primarily affect Tyson Foods and Unique Linen Service.

Mayor Richard Deweese pointed out that the largest industrial users also put the biggest demands on the sewer plant. Tyson's creates nitrates and phosphorus, and Unique Linen's output has a lot of phosphates.

Under the existing rates, those large users actually paid lower rates than residential users.

Deweese said when the city builds a new sewer plant, fewer chemicals will be needed. He also said if the city and Tyson's can find a less expensive solution, the city will change the rates accordingly.

Football field

School Board President Brian Ayers explained a proposal to move Tiger Stadium to the city parks on Sixth Street, where soccer fields are currently under construction.

That would allow the school to erect a new building at the present location of Tiger Stadium, which an architect has identified as the most promising spot on campus for new construction.

Ayers said some grants are available for such partnerships between cities and schools. Grant writer Rob Kerby described some possible grants, and asked if council would pass a resolution to allow him to apply for a grant with a Dec. 14 deadline.

The mayor and council expressed concern about the space problems affecting the school, but they had reservations about parking and the costs of maintaining such a facility.

A stadium might also take up more than one of the four fields currently under construction.

Alderman Willa Kerby drew applause from the large crowd when she said the city and school need to work together.

The council did not arrive at a decision, but Rob Kerby offered to check the dimensions at the fields to see if a stadium could be located in the space planned for one soccer field. He will report back at the next council meeting.

Water concession granted

Dr. Rob Eby attended the meeting to ask for any help the council could give him regarding a water line he installed to connect his veterinary clinic to the Carroll-Boone Water District pipeline. Eby explained that when he needed a new well, the Arkansas Department of Health required him to have a public well, which would have cost about $25,000. Eby thought he could connect to the Carroll-Boone pipeline more cheaply, and receive better quality water at the same time.

The project cost him about $48,000, however, and Eby found that state law would not allow him to recover any of that cost by charging other customers to tap into his line.

Eby had asked the city to accept the line as part of the city system, so he would not have to become certified as an independent water system. The city agreed to take over the line, and Eby asked if the city could also let him purchase water at cost. The city has similar arrangements in cases where a property owner grants an easement for a water line.

If any other customers connect to that line, a water tower will have to be added to the system, and Eby offered to provide an easement for the tower and for utilities. In exchange, he will be able to buy water from the city at the city's cost, $1.10 per thousand gallons, as opposed to the $2.85 per thousand he would have had to pay as a retail customer with his own water system.

The council unanimously approved the arrangement, which will only last as long as Eby owns the property.

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