Caraway Council OKs water rate increase

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Caraway councilmen voted to raise water rates during the meeting last Monday evening, June 4, after a lengthy review of the city's increasing cost to provide water to meet the demands of customers.

"Our water rates have not changed since 1991," Mayor Barry Riley said. "We have been losing $30,000 a year for three years. We have put $101,829 in the water and street departments to take care of water expenses. We need some stability in that account.

"This is a business account, like any other one. I recommend we increase our water rates to $10.50 for the first 1,000 gallons, and the next for $2.50. We are losing $5.60 every month for each customer in the city. We have got to do something."

"We do all our construction ourselves, and have been doing this for 16 years," Terry Couch, water superintendent, said. "We have got to do something. This is not good business. If this were a private business we would be dumping it. I think we need at least a two percent increase yearly after the rates are raised. The increase will barley cover the cost we have now, and we don't want to have to come back again in two years and do this all again.

"When we put in two master meters, at about $3,500, we had to cash in a CD to pay for it. As elected officials I know you hate to raise rates, but we have to do something. Forty years is considered the life of the water system, and ours was built in 1948. We don't have a depreciation account to help us, and we are sitting on a lot of old equipment.

"We are running on an old rate that was set in 1991. It hurt the Caraway people years ago by trying to keep the rates low, now we have no choice but to raise them. A $10 increase won't hurt most people but it will hurt some people who live on fixed incomes."

"With the $10.50 and $2.50 increases and two percent afterwards we can slowly catch up," said Riley.

"I don't know if two percent will be enough," said councilman Johnny Boatman. "It took years to get where we are now and it will take years to get back. We have to build enough money to take care of emergencies."

"We have had to put $10,000 in the water account in just the last five months since I took office," Riley said. "The price of gas and electricity has caused the losses. Instead of residential and commercial rates we will go back to just one flat rate for all. I appreciate Terry for trying to take care of us."

"I have dealt with several city councils on this and if we don't do something in another 16 years this will be a sad case for Caraway," Couch said.

"The $10.50 is the least we can do to just break even," said Riley.

"If we are losing money, we have to do something now," said councilman Mike Vaughn. "We have no choice."

The council voted unanimously to increase the cost of water to $10.50 for the first 1,000 gallons, and $2.50 for the next 1,000, effective June 24, and a two percent increase every year after that.

In other business, the council voted 5-1 to purchase a new Bad Boy lawnmower from Jonesboro Tractor Supply in Jonesboro. The mower has a hydraulic deck, diesel engine, is water cooled, 72 inch cutting width, and comes with a two-year warranty.

"The Bad Boy lawnmower was very impressive," said alderman Marvin Browning. "The components are very easy to access. They can have it ready a week from Tuesday."

"If we purchase this mower, I would like to see the grass mowed," said alderman Bo James.

"We have a lot of grass to mow in Caraway," Mayor Riley said. "The council agreed to take the cost of the mower out of the general fund, instead of the street department account."

"I am concerned about depleting our money in the General Fund," said alderman Brent Powell. "We have had a lot of trouble with our police cars and may have a lot of expenses coming up."

Powell cast the vote against the purchase.

* Mayor Riley reported the projects for the month are to put in flowerbeds around town and get the bandstand cleaned up for the Fourth of July.

* Twenty lots remain for sale east of the city, and multiple lots can be sold.

* The council held a lengthy session discussing the acceptance of Moore Street leading to the Troy Kellems home, and taking over maintenance of it. The street has been named and has 50' easements.

"I don't know why we would want to take on another road when we don't have money to do it," said James. "We have other roads needing help."

"Former Mayor Danny Dunigan said the city took claim to the road and did maintenance on it by having gravel hauled in," said Riley. "We can't find anything in the minutes about it."

"This was an agreement between two people and there is no letter on it," James said. "The street goes down to Kellems' home and into his driveway."

"I don't think we should give up the easement, as we have water lines on that easement now," said Couch.

The council voted 5-1 to declare Moore Road a city street with easement and take over maintenance of the road. James cast the opposing vote.

"This could allow some growth in that area," Riley said.

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