Com­pany seeks re­peal of sewer or­di­nance

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - SCAR­LET SIMS

FAYET­TEVILLE — Own­ers of a com­pany over­see­ing de­cen­tral­ized sewer sys­tems want jus­tices of the peace to re­peal an or­di­nance reg­u­lat­ing the sys­tems.

Tom and Kathy Bartlett, who over­see three sys­tems in Wash­ing­ton County, told the County Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on Mon­day their com­pany is the only one com­ply­ing with the county’s reg­u­la­tions. Other com­pa­nies haven’t com­plied and haven’t paid the $2 per household fee re­quired, Tom Bartlett said.

County At­tor­ney Brian Lester said he’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing and plans to present jus­tices of the peace with a report next month, he said. The Bartletts ap­pear to be the only op­er­a­tors com­ply­ing, he said.

Com­mu­nity sewer sys­tems serve hun­dreds of homes via a sys­tem sim­i­lar to a small waste­water treat­ment plant on lo­ca­tion. Of­fi­cials said last year about 12 sys­tems op­er­ated in the county.

The or­di­nance — a re­sponse to a com­mu­nity sewer sys­tem that failed near Prairie Grove and Farm­ing­ton — was

ap­proved in April.

Lester said he didn’t know why the or­di­nance wasn’t en­forced.

Re­nee Biby, the previous grants ad­min­is­tra­tor and pub­lic util­i­ties co­or­di­na­tor, wasn’t re­hired by County Judge Joseph Wood in De­cem­ber. Biby is among four depart­ment heads not re­hired by Wood.

Wood re­placed Biby with for­mer Jus­tice of the Peace Sharon Lloyd, a Repub­li­can, with­out ad­ver­tis­ing the job.

Pre­vi­ously, Biby had said the en­ti­ties run­ning sewer sys­tems need over­sight. Last year, Biby hired a per­son to over­see the com­mu­nity sewer sys­tems, but the employee wasn’t trained, Lester said.

The po­si­tion was sup­posed to be cov­ered, at least partly, by a $2 fee per month per home on a com­mu­nity sewer sys­tem, Lester said.

Doc­u­ments pre­sented to jus­tices of the peace last year showed the fee was ex­pected to bring in about $21,000 — more if cities agreed to county over­sight. Lester said he plans to in­ves­ti­gate how much the fee would raise.

The Bartletts listed sev­eral rea­sons to re­peal the or­di­nance: State agen­cies al­ready reg­u­late the sys­tems, prop­erty own­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions strug­gle to get re­quired let­ters of credit and the fee doesn’t gen­er­ate as much rev­enue as ex­pected.

Lester said other ques­tions about the or­di­nance in­clude what penal­ties ex­ist for those who don’t fol­low the rules. The Quo­rum Court still could fine some­one not com­ply­ing, but it would be eas­ier to have penal­ties al­ready in the or­di­nance so each in­frac­tion didn’t need to come be­fore the court, he said.

Sev­eral jus­tices of the peace said they want to fix the or­di­nance, not re­peal it.

“I’m more in­ter­ested in hav­ing full en­force­ment,” said Jus­tice of the Peace Eva Madi­son, a Demo­crat rep­re­sent­ing north­east­ern Fayet­teville. “I ap­pre­ci­ate there are con­cerns, but I don’t know that I would be think­ing about re­peal just yet.”

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