Ton­ti­town vot­ers to consider wa­ter im­prove­ment bonds

Early vot­ing on is­sue starts Wed­nes­day

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

Ton­ti­town vot­ers can start to cast bal­lots Wed­nes­day on a three-fourth cent sales tax in­crease to change its wa­ter sup­plier.

“I un­der­stand no­body wants to pay more taxes, nor do I, but some­times to im­prove our com­mu­nity, some­thing must be done,” Ton­ti­town Mayor Paul Colvin said.

The sales tax is pro­jected to bring in $45,000 an­nu­ally to pay for a $7.8 mil­lion wa­ter line. The tax would sun­set af­ter the bond is paid off in 30 years, Colvin said. If ap­proved, the city’s over­all sales tax would be 10.5 per­cent, up from 9.75 per­cent.

The city would stop get­ting wa­ter from Spring­dale and build a line to con­nect to the Ben­ton-Wash­ing­ton Re­gional Pub­lic Wa­ter Author­ity. The author­ity pro­vides wa­ter from Beaver Lake to 13 cities.

The Arkansas High­way and Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment would al­low the city to use its road im­prove­ment ease­ment, which will help

lower Ton­ti­town’s costs, Colvin said. The 7-mile line will go west from Ton­ti­town, along the right of way of U.S. 412 to­ward Cham­ber Springs Road.

The money will give Ton­ti­town in­de­pen­dence, Colvin said.

The con­tract with Spring­dale has us­age caps and rates have been raised sev­eral times in the past two years.

The five-year con­tract stip­u­lates an 18 mil­lion-gal­lons-per-month, or 600,000 gal­lons per day, cap on wa­ter use.

The cap could ham­per city growth in the next few years, Colvin said. The num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing in Ton­ti­town grew about 70 per­cent in the past six years, from 2,460 in 2010 to an es­ti­mated 3,497 last year, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau.

The city uses about 400,000 gal­lons per day, but if a “big wa­ter user,” like a ho­tel or chicken fac­tory, were to come into the city, lead­ers must consider how close it would put the city to the wa­ter-use cap, Colvin said. There is a $10,000 fine for ex­ceed­ing Spring­dale’s wa­ter-use limit.

Ton­ti­town pays $3.28 per 1,000 gal­lons to Spring­dale as of Jan. 1, up from $3.07 per 1,000 gal­lons paid last year.

The author­ity has a flat rate of $2.34 per 1,000 gal­lons, Scott Bor­man, gen­eral man­ager, has said. If Ton­ti­town con­nects to the author­ity, cus­tomers could see at least a 5 per­cent drop in wa­ter bills, city Pub­lic Works Direc­tor James Clark has said. The rate was raised in 2015 from $2.15 per 1,000 gal­lons. An­other wa­ter rate in­crease is not ex­pected again any time soon, Bor­man said in email.

Con­nect­ing to the author­ity would elim­i­nate wa­ter-use lim­i­ta­tions, help Ton­ti­town at­tract new com­pa­nies and keep wa­ter rates low for users, Colvin said. Ton­ti­town also could keep ac­cess to Spring­dale wa­ter as a backup in case of emer­gen­cies, Colvin said.

“To me, it’s go­ing to be a mas­sive win for Ton­ti­town to gain some sort of in­de­pen­dence,” Colvin said. “I can’t pre­dict the fu­ture, but what I can do is try to help Ton­ti­town’s fu­ture by pro­tect­ing Ton­ti­town’s op­tions.”

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