Monette water rate hike likely

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Monette city council held a lengthy discussion on water and sewer rates and necessary improvements at the regular council meeting held Monday, May 24.

Tim Carey, Arkansas Rural Water Association circuit rider from Paragould, addressed the council concerning city sewer situations.

Carey reposted his rate study calculated shortage of revenue derived from the Water and Sewer Department at $83,783.61.

"You have managed to pay the cost necessary to keep the system going, out of your General Fund," Carey said. " All departments should sustain themselves, and the Sewer Department portion is not. You need to come up with a base rate for water and sewer that will pay your expenses and build a cash reservoir fund for the future.

"You need to go to the water and sewer plants and take a good look at them. You can forecast that you are going to have to do something in order for this city to make it. This is no quick fix, but you have some immediate problems to deal with."

The council reviewed rate change possibilities to cover current expenses and to save for future changes.

"Our last rate change for water was in 2003," Alderman Tom Carroll said. "Should we go with an immediate increase or wait on this?"

"You should have a cost of living increase every year," Carey said. "I would advise you to establish a base rate based on the first 1,000 gallons of water used. Then a second rate for each 1,000 gallons thereafter. About one third of your residential customers use 1,000 gallons or less, and the remaining two thirds use an average of 5,000 gallons each month."

"You need to make all rates the same, in residential and business," he said. "Your two-inch and above meters need to be tested yearly. You need a reality rate that is tailored for your city. You are going to have to look at a lot of things that have not been looked at before, like what you going to do about the sewer plant. You currently have a package plant. A basin and lagoon system will be cheaper for the city to run."

The council reviewed current rates and evaluated changes necessary for departments to be self-sustaining.

"You can't just maintain the system as it is," Carey said. "You have to make plans to do something about it."

"We have to get where we can put money back," Alderman Billy Watson said.

"We can look at sanitation fees also when we are doing an overview of the water situation," Alderman Dick Pace said.

"We can delay our work on the sewer system until the study is complete," Qualls said.

"Our committee needs to meet and study this," Alderman Perry Wood said. "We can have a proposal for the June meeting."

The council tabled a decision until the planning committee could meet.

"Hopefully by July 1 we will know where we stand," Wood said.

Mayor Chub Qualls recognized Shirley Bronaugh for her 51 years of service to the Monette Cemetery Board. Board Chairman Janet Rolland accepted the plaque for Bronaugh, who was unable to attend. Board member Deb Whited was in attendance at the meeting. Johnny Parrish was appointed by the Cemetery Board to fill the vacancy left by Bronaugh's retirement.

City Attorney Johnny Dunigan reported on the Wolverine Plant property.

"A letter from Wolverine has offered the city to purchase the property for $100 and be responsible for any environmental problems," Dunigan said. "It will only be available for industrial use."

"We have one Black Oak business and two local ones that are interested in this property," Mayor Qualls said.

The council discussed the offer and also rules for condemning such property. No decision was made and the issue was tabled.

The council discussed the construction of the new Farmers Market. The old building was built over an existing water and sewer line, but the new building will not be. Plans are to construct the new structure further east than the former building. The new 9,100 square foot building is estimated to be completed in August.

Bids will be advertised for construction of the new Sports Park concession stand and bathrooms. Ads will be opened at noon on June 4. Plans have been secured for a year's loan of $25,000 from Liberty Bank to complete field #3 with bleachers and covers. An additional addendum will be added to the bid to include pricing of bleachers and adjacent sidewalks.

Mayor Qualls reported on several ongoing projects. Mulch has been added to the city playground, and basketball goals will soon be put in place. An old white Chevrolet truck has been sold for $400 and money will be placed in the Street Fund. The Museum raised $560 at a bake sale held May 8.

The council voted to donate $500 for the annual Relay For Life campaign.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, June 28, at city hall.

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