The Leachville City Council approved a $2.35 increase in water bills to help finance a new water tower at the Aug. 1 council meeting. The tower will be located north of West Swihart Road on property obtained by the Leachville Industrial Development Committee.
Wayne Mendley, with Miller-Newell Engineering in Jonesboro, presented outlines of proposed plans for the new water tower and renovation of the current sewer processing plant.
The City of Leachville began upgrading the water system in 2001, with the installation of a 100,000 gallon tank. The completed system is capable of providing a five hour emergency supply of water. Consideration is being given for two sizes of tanks, a 200,000 gallon and a 300,000 gallon, with funding through a 3.5 percent interest loan for 30 years from Arkansas Soil and Water.
"We started upgrading plans with a water and sanitation survey of Leachville's needs for the next 20 years," Mendley said. "Twenty four hours of water storage is necessary. We took in consideration the current use, growth in the next 20 years, and water being provided to Buffalo Island Rural Water.
"You need to construct a 300,000 tank, in order to provide Buffalo Island usage, to work in conjunction with the existing 100,000 gallon tank. Should Buffalo Island build their own storage tank, and Leachville to provide water, you would need a 200,000 tank. Arkansas Soil and Water provides a low interest loan through the Safe Drinking Water Act. You have to show a need in order to get the loan, and you have a need right now."
The upgrading is split into two projects, one to build a new tank, and one to paint the existing one. Soil and Water will require a rate increase.
The sewer project rehabilitation will add a new bar screen, to intercept abrasive trash gathering in the system, as well as a sludge filter, with accumulations from both to be sent to a dumpster for hauling to landfill. Drying beds are to be abandoned and removed, with the installation of the sludge filters and dumpsters.
"This will be a nicer and more sanitary operation," Mendley said. "Something has to be done."
"This system will do a much better job," Leachville Mayor Ralph Wells said.
Cost for the head works on the pumping station are estimated to cost $227,000, with sludge filters and pump station at $120,000, for a total sewer project cost of $441,206.
The USDA Rural Development funding has 4.8 percent interest for 39 years.
"You are not obligated until you get your letter of conditions," Mendley said.
The council voted unanimously to proceed with the projects.
Water rate increases will go into effect immediately, charging $2.35 per 1,000 gallons of water used, after the first 1,800 gallons.
"The way I see it, we don't have a choice," alderman Anna Beth Thomas said.
"With a 1/2 cent city sales tax, we wouldn't have to raise the water bill, and the people wouldn't have to bear all the burden of paying for the improvements, alone," Wells said.
The council and those in attendance discussed water quality and coloration, as well as water pressure and ISO rating concerns.
Mayor Wells reviewed the $75,000 park grant project.
"Susan Clifford will be here on Aug. 13, to talk about the grant," Wells said.
"I don't see how we can raise water rates and then talk about spending all that money on a park grant," Alderman Bill Hetler said. "No sir, that's not right."
The council agreed to leave the city privilege license as it currently stands. City clerk/treasurer Ruth Ann Keith will send notices, and if unpaid the police department will do collections.
The council voted 5-1 to pay all expenses for Keith to attend the Clerk's Association Meeting, Aug. 25-26. Alderman Bobby Crites cast the dissenting vote.
The council discussed street maintenance and repair.
"We will get it done, as we can," Wells said.
Council voted to pay for manuals for the two new firemen, Brandon Ammons and Tony Nix, to attend First Responders training meeting in Trumann.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at city hall.