Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TOP STORY > >Cabot, Ward talk water

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, which has voiced concern in the past month about other water systems operating inside city limits, took the first step Monday toward buying Ward water customers who live in Cabot.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke said during the Monday Ward Council meeting that he told Cabot officials Ward’s customers in Cabot could be bought for $17.5 million.

“They didn’t think that was outrageous,” Brooke told the council. “They’re not going to buy it, but they didn’t think it was outrageous.”

That price is up from the $10 million price he quoted in 2000, Brooke said.

Brooke told his city council that he met earlier that day with Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, Tim Joyner, general manager of Cabot WaterWorks, and Bill Cypert, secretary and spokesman for Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, and that negotiations would continue. None of the council members voiced any objection to selling part of the Ward water system.

Contacted Tuesday, Joyner said WaterWorks hopes to eventually purchase all the customers inside Cabot who currently belong to other water associations or cities.

Exactly how many Ward water customers live in Cabot is unclear. Deborah Staley, who runs the water billing office in Ward, said she keeps track of Ward’s 3,000 customers by where they are located in the system, not by city boundaries.

Joyner said he knows of at least 45 Cabot residents who are billed by Cabot for sewer and Ward for water. But Cypert said there could be as many as 500-700 Ward water customers inside Cabot because some of them have septic tanks and don’t require sewer.

These are some of the areas in Cabot that could be part of negotiations: Diedrich Lane, Mary Lynn Circle, Kingwood and Castle Heights.

Although the Cabot commissioners admit that one issue is territory — that they want Cabot WaterWorks to provide water and sewer to all Cabot residents — Cypert said the real concern is fire protection.

The areas served by Ward have several “high-dollar homes,” he said, and the rural water lines there could be too small for adequate fire protection.

Cypert said Cabot wants to test the Ward lines, and that Brooke hasn’t said no.

As for buying the lines inside Cabot, Cypert said the Monday meeting was simply to start the conversation.

“The ball is in their court,” he said. “We made it clear that we’re not aggressive, that we just want to clean it up and get it in our city.”

In other business, the Ward Council City passed resolutions necessary for a nonprofit group to apply for state grants to build a youth center on the city hall grounds.

The council also approved an annexation that brought two subdivisions — Golden Meadows on the corner of Wilson Loop and Moon and Nan’s Place off Ray Sowell Road — into the city.

Potentially 60-80 homes could be built in the two subdivisions, and council members said they were concerned that a dozen had been built before the annexation and that meant the city lost sales tax revenue from the building material.

Alderman Charlie Gasteneau gave the other council members a proposed ordinance to regulate sexually-oriented businesses and asked that they study it for discussion in August.

The ordinance is the same one Cabot has already passed and that Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson has said his council should look at also. “This is the city of Cabot’s ordinance with Cabot changed to Ward,” Gasteneau told the council.