Leader Blues

Monday, April 06, 2009

TOP STORY >> Water project to cost less

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The waterline that will connect Cabot to Central Arkansas Water was first estimated at $12 million and then lowered to $11.4 million. But the construction bids for the project that came in this week indicate that it will actually cost about $2 million less.

Although the staff and commission that run Cabot WaterWorks will have to analyze the bids and check the credentials of the bidders before any decision can be made, the lowest of the 12 bids received was $8.9 million and the next two lowest were $9.5 million or less.

Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission will meet at 11 a.m. Wednesday to decide who will get the contract to build the 30-inch, 13-mile line from Lake Maumelle to Cabot. Construction is expected to begin this summer and the line should be completed some time in 2011.

During the last monthly meeting, the commission heard a report on audits of Cabot WaterWorks books for 2007 and 2008 that showed the utility is financially sound with good internal controls.

Michael L. Cobb, the certified public accountant who has audited the utility’s books for the three years it has been under the control of a commission, told the commission Thursday night to keep doing what they’re doing.

“You’re in a fiscally sound position that just requires continued prudence,” Cobb said.

Cobb warned that income from water will go down in years when the summers are not too hot and dry and reminded the commission that wastewater rates will need to increase soon.

But those were words that could have gone unsaid. The commission was already fully aware that water profits are down due to a wet summer. And a study for a sewer rate increase is already under way that, with approval of the city council, will relieve wastewater’s “hand-to-mouth” financial status.

One goal was to reduce the overtime at CWW as well as gas consumption. Tim Joyner, CWW general manager, reported to the commission that both are down.

Joyner also made the commission aware of a potential problem with long water lines like those that will run from Little Rock to Cabot through a connection with Central Arkansas Water, which is supposed to supply the city with water after 2023 as well as the one that could connect the city’s system to Greers Ferry Lake.

The disinfectants used to purify surface water can react with the natural materials in the water, such as decaying vegetation, which are a potential health risk, especially if the water stays in the transmission lines for long periods.

The city is under contract with CAW to buy a minimum of 300,000 gallons of water a day up to 9 million gallons a day after the connection is made to CAW.

However, the city’s connection with Greers Ferry through the Lonoke-White Project, which has been in the works for 15 years, is not as certain.

The Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission has agreed to pay for about 250,000 gallons a day to help build that $65 million project, but not the almost 1 million gallons they have been asked to purchase.

No contracts have been signed, said Bill Cypert, secretary and spokesman for the commission. The commission still needs more information before any decision will be made, he said.

Members of the Lonoke White Project will meet at Ward City Hall at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.