Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TOP STORY > >Area will get $3.64 million water plant

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The water associations of Grand Prairie and Bayou Two, which merged in May 2007 to save on administrative costs, broke ground last week on a water-treatment plant that is part of an improvement project that will provide Ward with up to 10 million gallons of water a month and free Bayou Two customers from their dependence on Jacksonville water.

The entire $3.64 million projects includes four new wells that are already in production, the treatment plant and new lines in the Bayou Two district that will run west from the Hwy. 31 treatment plant along Hwy. 321 to Dogwood Lane then south to Mt. Tabor Road, west to Hwy. 89 and south to Mahoney Road to tie into the tank on Duckcoop Lane.

Now known as Grand Prairie Bayou Two Public Facilities Board of Lonoke County, the utility currently pays Jacksonville $3.40 per thousand gallons for the first 5million gallons of water purchased every month and $3.20 per thousand for all over 5 million gallons. The cost of producing well water is 80 cents per thousand gallons.

Terry House, general manager for the utility, said this week that all the water used by Bayou Two customers is purchased from Jacksonville. The treatment plant is expected to be online by January 2009. The water line in the Bayou Two district should be completed by the end of 2009. When both those projects are completed, Bayou Two will no longer be dependent Jacksonville water except as a backup source, he said.

Grand Prairie Bayou Two has 3,900 customers and serves a population of about 10,000 in the northeast corner of Lonoke County, including some customers inside Cabot city limits.

To pay for the major improvement projects the utility saved $1.2 million. The savings in one year from consolidating was $108,000, House said.

“We’re very frugal,” he said.

But it also refinanced some bonds and borrowed $1 million from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission at 3.25 percent interest.

House said the rates would likely be restructured after the work is completed with Bayou Two customers seeing a considerable savings. It is likely, he said, that customers who use less water will pay less per thousand gallons than customers who use a lot of water.

Currently, the biggest users are customers with lawn sprinkling systems, he said.

Eventually, cities and water associations will have to get their water from lakes or other surface sources. Grand Prairie Bayou Two, like the city of Ward, is part of the Lonoke-White Water Project which is supposed to bring water to the area from Greers Ferry Lake. That project was in the planning stages 15 years ago and has made some progress. The partners own property for an intake site and right-of-way for a water line. But there is currently no money for construction.

But Grand Prairie Bayou Two has a permit from the state to take ground water until 2027 and House said he is confident the Lonoke- White Project will be completed long before that permit expires.