County comes together: votes no

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 ~ Updated 3:44 PM

CARROLL COUNTY -- Residents of Carroll County have spoken: the Public Facilities Board will not move forward. The ordinance for the PFB was voted down, with 1286 votes against and 869 for it.

Early voting was brisk, with election workers at the Eureka Springs courthouse counting 31 voters and a waiting line by noon on Monday. In Berryville, 116 voters had cast a ballot during the same time period.

The snowstorm and subsequent slippery roads forced the courthouses in both districts to close for much of last week, delaying early voting which was supposed to have begun on Feb. 2. When the courthouses re-opened in the brief calm before the next storm, 25 votes were cast in Eureka Springs and 42 in Berryville.

The PFB was to have been created to supply water to rural residents of Carroll County, but because it was to be privately managed without government oversight, its creation stirred enormous controversy in the county. Those for it welcomed rural water and seemed to have no problem with how it would be run; those opposed pointed out there have been no surveys done or need assessments made, and there are no guarantees or safeguards for the future because state law specifies that the powers of the PFB do not require any state, county, or municipality approval or consent.

Members of the water board, appointed rather than elected, said they had no interest in taking over existing water systems, but current law would have permitted them to do so. The facilities board would have had power of eminent domain, with no guarantees as to how that would have been used.

According to research done by ABC News correspondent Erin Hayes, formerly of Berryville, the board would have had "astoundingly broad powers," that, in addition to allowing them to build a county-wide water network, permitted them to "issue bonds, and to build- among things -- sewer facilities, energy facilities and residential housing."

There are almost no PFBs in Arkansas; rural water networks are usually managed by Public Water Authorities, which are governmental entities.

The only way to stop the Public Facilities Board was the February 8 election.

Now the Carroll County Public Water Authority, recently organized by contractor Jimmy Jones, is next up at bat.

The CCPWA was created when Jones applied to convert his nonprofit Carroll Rural Water Association, Inc., to a public water authority. Unlike the PWB, land west of the Kings River would not be included in the CCPWA.

Water for the system would be purchased from the city of Berryville, according to CCPWA application paperwork. Two of the proposed PFB members, Freddie Worley and Kevin Hamm, are also members of PWB.

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