Friday, September 05, 2014

TOP STORY >> Lake is sending water to Beebe

Leader staff writer

Members of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority cut the ribbon to the meter station at 118 Rainey Road in Beebe on Thursday.

Water from Greers Ferry Lake began flowing to the station three weeks ago. Construction on the $56 million Lonoke White project began in July 2012 after two decades of planning.

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission loaned money for the project. The loan will be paid with a 38-year bond issue.

The other 12 meter stations in the Lonoke White Public Water Authority will be put into service in six to eight weeks. Lonoke White also supplies water to Vilonia, Ward, Austin, Jacksonville, North Pulaski, Grand Prairie Bayou Two and Furlow water associations. They are all members of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority.

Lonoke White general manager Woody Bryant said the communities increased water rates early in the project to help pay the interest during construction, saving almost $7 million.

Beebe gets 160,000 gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry. The water is mixed with water from the city wells. The LWPWA plant at Greers Ferry can produce 10 million gallons a day. Right now the price for water is $1.25 per thousand gallons.

“Beebe opted to stick with their wells for now. As expenses go up, they’ll make a decision on whether to keep operating their wells or not. Beebe is obligated to take 144,000 gallons a day. It was not intended to be the sole source of water, but some communities choose to do that and use their other source as a backup,” Bryant said.

Beebe Water commission chairman John Hayes said the Lonoke-White water will keep Beebe from having to add a seventh well.

“Water taste should improve,” Hayes said.

The city is the midst of $3 million water line improvement project, to replace the old cast iron pipes. Hayes said that too will help the taste of the water.

“There are no plans for rates to go up because of this, it was already in place,” Hayes.

The base rate for Beebe Water customers is $15.64 for the first 20,000 gallons. A three-year rate increase plan was passed four years ago to pay for the Lonoke White project.

Beebe water pays Lonoke-White about $16,000 a month for water, plus $5 per water meter per month.