Leachville council to move forward with sewer project
A public meeting preceded a special called Leachville City Council meeting on Monday, July 23. The public meeting was to discuss and take questions about the proposed wastewater treatment plant renovations and sewer expansion to Highway 18.
Mayor Rodney Robertson opened the floor for any questions or comments.
Engineer Wayne Menley with Miller-Newell Engineers Inc. was present. Menley has been working on the proposed project for eight years.
Ruth Ann Keith, Leachville City Clerk, explained bonds in the amount of $1,500,000 will need to be approved to pay for the $1,650,000 project. Leachville Industrial Development Commission has agreed to pay $150,000 on the project.
One of the first questions asked was how long does the city have to pay off the loan. The pay-off length is 40 years.
Councilman Keith Evans explained the wastewater treatment plant project has to be done in order to keep the city's system in compliance.
The need and necessity of an increase in sewer rates was discussed.
Menley said on average citizens are currently paying about $9. The minimum will go up to $15.25. The cost per 1,000 gallons over the minimum will go from $1.35 to $2.75. Individual bills will go up on average about $10.
If the council decides to approve the project in the special called meeting, the ordinance will be posted in five places throughout the city and it will go into affect 30 days after it is posted.
Councilman Paul Wildy pointed out and wanted to make sure citizens realized most of the loan will go to needed renovations of the wastewater treatment plant benefiting all Leachville citizens. The sewer expansion project is a small percentage of the total cost.
Another question was how much the payment will be to the city and if the city could afford it.
The payment will be $5,000 a month and with the increase the loan can be repaid.
The city is getting a low interest rate for the project, which is set at 2.75 percent. Menley said the rate is locked in and will not go up, but if it is less when the loan is finalized, it can go down.
Mayor Robertson said in reality, they have to do the treatment plant.
“If we do not start and we get out of compliance the city can be fined maybe a $1,000 a day,” Councilwoman Lisa Baldridge commented.
Keith said the council was talking about sewer plant years ago and the procedure got stopped due to other issues that came up.
The expansion to Highway 18 will hook up sewer to 27 residences.
Keith also said there is an ordinance that requires homeowners to hook up to sewer if it is provided.
Menley went on to say the project will provide for the cost of grinder stations that will be placed on the property of each home. The grinder stations will be placed as near the septic tanks as possible and the homeowners will only have to pay for hook-up to the grinder station, not to the highway.
It was discussed when and if a grinder station goes out or needs repair, the cost will be on the city.
One citizen commented, “If we have to have it, we have to do it. We want our sewer working.”
Maryln Looney said she had heard controversial comments from some of the homeowners who said they did not want to hook up.
“I think they thought they would have to pay for lines from the septic tanks to the highway which would be much more,” she said.
Residents will not be billed for sewer until it is actually hooked up.
“We want the city to grow,” Keith said. “We have been talking about this for 14 years. If we can get sewer to the highway maybe we can get more businesses. If we want more people to move to our town we have to have the wastewater treatment plant. This project is a good move for our town. This town needs to grow. The mayor and council have been working hard to make improvements and we have a new school for our children. I've always known it is a good place to live and raise a family and we want to make it even better for the future. Even if we don't get industry we are a bedroom community. We are only 20 to 30 minutes from Blytheville, Jonesboro, Paragould and Kennett.”
Robert Ballard, water/sewer superintendent, said representatives of Buffalo Island Rural Water told him Leachville cannot provide water to anyone in their service area (such as the car lot across Highway 18).
“It seems to me if it is in the city limits we should be able to,” Councilman Evans said. “That may be something for our lawyer to talk to their lawyer about.”
The water issue does not interfere with offering sewer.
Looney said as far as she is concerned, the council needs to sign off on it.
“Again, I want everyone to understand the majority of the cost of the project is for the wastewater treatment plant,” Councilman Wildy said. “We don't have a choice, the plant has to be fixed. Now is the time.”
It was estimated the sewer expansion project would take about four months to complete and the sewer treatment plant project about nine months.
Special Called Meeting:
The council unanimously approved Ordinance 2018-3 to post the sewer revenue bond ordinance at five locations throughout town and Ordinance 2018-4 authorizing extension/improvements of the sewer revenue bond.
The next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20. Keith will have an ordinance prepared for the rate increase.