Berryville refunding rural water deposits

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Some rural Berryville residents who paid a $100 deposit in hopes of being included in the city’s recent rural water project can expect to receive a refund in coming days.

City administrative assistant Jay Lee says he’s processing them as fast as he can.

“We have begun the process of giving out the refunds for the rural customers who signed up but we didn’t make it to,” Lee said during the Nov. 2 meeting of the Berryville City Council. “All I ask is that everybody give us some time.”

The $9.8 million project initially planned to add approximately 41 miles of water line into future growth areas outside of Berryville, serving residents who previously relied on wells or other independent water sources. Those residents were asked to pay a $100 connection fee up front.

Lee said last week that the project was simply unable to reach some of those residents — approximately 150, Lee said — at least for now.

“[That fee] was to kind of gauge interest in certain areas, how many people were interested,” Lee said. “We used that to determine where we going to make it to. Whenever we ended up taking the bids, the bids came in higher than what we thought. And so we had to cut back certain places. And so these are refunds of the $100 connection fee to the people that we did not make it to.”

Lee added that the city hopes to expand the project again in the future.

“There is a future expansion to the project,” Lee said. “This whole system was built to where we can expand as long as the topography doesn’t make it to where we can’t. We’ve had so many people come in and request their money back that we’re just going to send it all back to everybody and if we are able to get some more money and do another phase of this rural water project, we’ll just start that whole process again.”

The city made its last payment to the contractors on the project — which was partially funded by $7,128,000 in grants and a $1,681,000 loan from the United States Department of Agriculture — in October.

The process, Lee said, initially began in 2016 when the city began hosting informational meetings to inform the public of about the planned project.

“We’re about five years into this thing,” Lee said. “From the very initial planning stages and trying to get everything going through to completion, it’s been about five years.”

Future expansion to the city’s water system, Lee said, could possibly require a larger connection fee.

“It may be more than $100 next time,” Lee said. “That $100 was what the funding agencies requested us to get from everybody. Next time, it may be more.”

In the meantime, he asked for those due a refund to be patient.

“We started on the first handful of them [on Nov. 1],” Lee said. “I’m thinking by the end of the month, we should be able to get all these out.”

In other business, the council heard a brief report from council member Linda Riddlesperger regarding the city’s Saunders Museum, which wrapped up its 2021 season on Friday after a weeklong open house celebrating the end of the season and marking the museum’s 65th anniversary.

Mayor Tim McKinney said the city has plans to review the security system at the museum and other possible changes that might be suggested by the Arkansas Heritage Foundation.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Nov. 16, at Berryville City Hall.

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