Friday, April 01, 2011

TOP STORY > >Ward to sell bonds to improve sewers

Leader staff writer

The Ward City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night for a $5 million bond issue that will combine the 2005 and 2009 bond issues and also provide $750,000 for upgrades at the sewer- treatment plant to keep it in compliance with state regulations.

The bonds are supported by revenue from the water and sewer departments. Bob Wright with Crews & Associates, the firm handling the bond sale, told the council that no rate increase is needed to support the bond issue.

Interest rates are 4.35 percent now, Wright said, and that the city will save $156,000 by refunding the existing bond issues.

Deborah Staley, who manages the water department, told the council that the payment on the bonds will be $50,000 a month.

Mayor Art Brooke was the only person who spoke during the meeting, and was opposed to the additional $750,000. He supported refunding the existing bonds for a lower interest rate, but he said he was concerned that a rate increase will be needed when the Lonoke-White water project is funded and the city has to start paying $5 a month for each of Ward’s actual 3,500 water customers plus an additional 750 customers that Ward doesn’t have. To secure federal loans to bring water to the area from Greers Ferry Lake, members of the Lonoke-White project agreed to pay more to make up for Cabot deciding to not participate.

“I have to be fair to the people who are out there paying the bills,” Brooke said.

Tim Lemons, who has been the engineer on several water and sewer projects in Ward, warned that waiting to make improvements at the sewer plant could be costly. The plant is permitted with the state to handle 500,000 gallons of wastewater a day, Lemons said. But during heavy rains, as much as 1.6 million gallons go through it.

One of the improvements he has designed is an “equalization basin” that will hold the rainwater that gets to the plant through infiltration from broken sewer lines and feed it into the plant gradually for treatment.

“(The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality) has been very hospitable to Ward in recent years but I don’t know how long that hospitality will last,” Lemons said.

He warned that although he has never seen it happen, ADEQ could fine the city as much as $10,000 a day for each day the city is out of compliance.

Mike Sipes, who runs the water and sewer plants, told the council that he was for the additional $750,000 for sewer-plant improvements.

“We’re patching things now,” Sipes said.