Leader Blues

Friday, July 07, 2006

TOP STORY >> More water to flow

BY PEG KENYON
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Jacksonville is paying $6.7 million for a line from Little Rock, including $2 million for a water tower here.

A multi-million dollar water project is underway as a transmission line makes its way toward Jacksonville and will benefit the entire region.

A bid of $6.7 million to construct pipes across the I-430 bridge spanning the Arkansas River marks the next step of a $44 million project to switch Jacksonville’s dependency on water wells in Lonoke County to Little Rock-based Central Arkansas Water, according to Ken Anderson, general manager for Jacksonville Water Department. This will help Jacksonville, Cabot and north Pulaski County water departments tap into the Central Arkansas Water supply.

Of the $44 million project, $14.3 million will be Jacksonville’s financial responsibility.

“The cost will be shared by Central Arkansas Water, Jackson-ville, Cabot and North Pulaski County Water Works,” Anderson explained.

This week, a sign denoting a future water tower stood between the Redmond Road railroad tracks and the south end of the newly-developed Hidden Oaks subdivision. The sign indicates that upon completion, the elevated tank will hold one million gallons of water. The cost to build the water tower is set at $2 million.

One of two transmission lines allowing CAW to pump water to Jacksonville will connect at this site, Anderson explained.
It will follow the route of existing railroad tracks toward the Brushy Island area. Going past the Two Pines landfill, this transmission line will tie into one of CAW’s existing lines.

lay the water pipeline at $4.5 million.

This part of the project requires easements as well.

“There are only three or four major landowners on this side, and the landfill has already agreed to it,” Anderson told The Leader.

Shoring up this project to ensure Jacksonville has an adequate water source is a concern for local leaders. “The well system aquifer keeps dropping every year,” Anderson said.

“At the level we’re pumping now, we could go to 2015 before production from the wells would be decreased.”

A second transmission line heading toward Gravel Ridge to the west of Jacksonville must also be completed, but its exact route has yet to be determined. It will cost more to complete this water line.

“At the end of the project, Jacksonville will have four tanks (water towers) and maybe a fifth one, depending on the Sherwood annexation,” Anderson said.

Per request by property owners, the city south of Jacksonville plans to annex undeveloped land, which includes an area to the north and east of Bayou Meto.

Local funding to cover expenditures for the project has already begun.

In 2005, Jacksonville water customers felt the impact of a 28 percent rate hike in 2005. The increase was expected to generate an $849,639 increase in revenue, Anderson said.

This year, 12.5 percent rate hike took place and even more cash flow is expected. This year’s estimate is set at $1.25 million. In 2007, a rate hike of 10.5 percent could generate nearly $1.7 million. In 2008, the figure could rise to $2.1 million.

Prior to this plan, Jacksonville water customers experienced its last rate hike in 2000. Before 2000, Jacksonville’s water rate had remained the same for 15 years, Anderson said.