Leader Blues

Friday, March 05, 2010

TOP STORY >> Beebe set to sign up for major water plan

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The Beebe City Council and Mayor Mike Robertson held a special meeting this week to discuss a possible rate increase for water customers, cutting back on the number of dogs taken into the animal shelter and the need for a hazard-mitigation plan to gain access to federal grant money.

The consensus of the council was that there is no time for voters to decide if water rates should be raised for Beebe to participate in a $50 million project to bring water to the area from Greers Ferry Lake and they didn’t have enough information to decide.

For example, no one knows for certain how much the water will cost.

The water commission has been asked sign to a water-purchase agreement by May 4. A joint meeting of the water commission and city council has been called for 6:30 p.m. March 15 for more discussion.

The flood on Christmas Eve damaged about 30 homes in the Windwood subdivision. Two were so badly damaged they will have to be torn down. Some residents want the city to get a federal grant to buy the houses that will likely flood again, but the city’s floodplain manager has learned that the grant money is not available because the city does not have a hazard-mitigation plan.

The council also said Horace Taylor, the city’s animal-control officer, should stop accepting owner-release dogs and pick up only strays.

Water rates would need to go up 6 percent a year for three years for Beebe to be part of the Lonoke White Water Project. If the project moves forward, water should be flowing by 2013. Project. If the project moves forward, water should be flowing by 2013.

At that time, Beebe would buy 10 percent of the water it needs from Lonoke-White Public Water Authority at a rate possibly of $2.50 per thousand gallons.

By comparison, customers of Southwest White County Water pay $2.13 per thousand gallons.

Beebe doesn’t need more water now. A new well and upgrades to the treatment plant planned for 2017 would provide enough for the future at about half the $3.5 million the city will have to pay to help build the Lonoke-White Water Project.

But water experts say you must plan well into the future to be able to provide needed water and in the future, water should come from lakes, not wells.

John Powell, chairman of the commission that oversees water and sewer for Beebe, said Friday that he hopes the mayor and council agree that buying into the Lonoke-White Project is the best solution for Beebe’s future needs.

Beebe already owns equity in the project, Hayes said. And it has a vote on the board that runs the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority just like larger members such as Cabot and Jacksonville.

“If we get out of this, we lose control,” Hayes said. “If we don’t do this, we will be a water buyer at someone else’s mercy.”

HAZARD MITIGATION

The city council gave approval for Milton McCullar to work with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management on a hazard-mitigation plan for the city.

McCullar said the plan would cost at least $20,000 but grant money might be available to pay for it. The plan could take more than a year to complete, he said, and that means it would not be ready in time for the city to pursue a grant to buy the houses in Windwood that are prone to flooding.

The mayor reported to the council that he had learned federal grant money will not be available to build railroad trestles in the Windwood area.

Sometime over the past 20 or so years, two trestles were filled in. Now water that runs into the subdivision is held there until it can run through the remaining trestle.

The mayor said he learned that Union Pacific is a private company and not eligible for a grant to pay for the trestles. However, he said he is still working with the railroad and still hopes they will be built.

STRAY DOGS

Robertson told the council that 50 percent of the dogs in the city’s animal shelter are not strays found on city streets. They are dogs that the animal control officer picked up at the owners’ request.

The mayor said, and the council agreed, that the animal-control ordinance needs to be overhauled to include charges for giving unwanted pets to the city and guidelines for adopting pets.

The mayor said he was in favor of not charging adoption fees because he would rather give the dogs away than kill them.

In other business, the council discussed the need to buy a truck to pull the new $29,400 leaf vacuum purchased with a 75/25 matching state grant.

On Thursday, the council held a special meeting to approve the purchase of a 2003 Chevrolet C43 bought from Jerrell Clark of Heber Springs for $18,250.