Residents of Bauxite face possible hike in current rates

Josh Freeman of the Arkansas Rural Water Association reviewed problems and possible solutions regarding water and sewer rates currently being charged to Bauxite residents during a City Council meeting Monday night.

Based on information obtained in a rate study Freeman conducted on Bauxite rates, his recommendation to the council is that an increase in water and sewer rates is necessary in order to maintain the systems in the city and to prepare for unexpected emergencies.

If the council should decide not to raise the rate per gallon, Freeman recommends that an additional monthly fee of $10 be imposed on each household.

Bauxite has approximately 230 households and the $10 fee would help provide funds to repair sewer grinders that connect each house to the city sewer system, he said.

In his remarks, he noted that so-called brown water from each house is processed through a grinder and pump before entering the city sewer system.

Maintenance of each pump currently is the sole responsibility of the city. However, Freeman noted that in other towns of similar size where the sewer grinder type of sewer system is used, the homeowner is responsible for keeping the grinder in proper condition. Additionally, the city system requires a system of pumps to move waste through the sewer system.

A series of lift pumps located at different locations around the city work to move the brown water once it leaves the sewer grinders at each house. The pumps are set in pairs. One pump works while the other is inactive, he explained.

The pumps are set to alternate between online and offline in order to reduce the wear and tear on each pump. McMahan told the council that currently one of the pumps behind City Hall is down for repairs. Id the other pump should fail, the possibility of sewer overflow exists, he said.

Repairs to the pump are in process, but the cost will exceed the amount collected in one month from the $10 per household fee charge to residents.

In his report Freeman made the following recommendations.

"The rate study results represent the minimum rate amount that should be charged to break even in the accounts," Freeman wrote.

This report includes proposed rate increases for water and three increased sewer rate options.

"The recommended rate increases are: Water Department — $11.25 debt service charge per costumer, $17 for the first 2,000 gallons water, $ 8.50 per 1,000 gallons thereafter," according to the report.

For the first option, the water department would charge a $7.30 debt service charge per costumer, then $12 for the first 2,000 gallons of sewage service and $ 5.15 per 1,000 thereafter. For option 2, residents would have a $6 debt service charge per costumer and pay $12 for the first 2,000 gallons of sewage service and $5.75 per 1,000 gallons thereafter.

The final option, which would allow the city to hire a full-time employee, would include a $12 debt service charge per costumer and a charge of $14.30 for the first 2,000 gallons of sewage used and $7.15 per 1,000 gallons thereafter."

The third option was viewed as one the city could not afford due to the impact the increase of a full-time position would have on the residents of the city.

Alderman Karen Brooks noted that as much as she didn't like the prospect of putting additional strain on the budgets of residents, the city needs to make a change.

A town hall meeting will be set in coming months to present information to residents and to gather input from individuals and businesses in the city. The council and mayor plan to draft an ordinance outlining any new rates and will vote on the rates prior to the end of 2014.

Any new rates would go into effect in January 2015.