Tontitown voters to consider water improvement bonds
Early voting on issue starts Wednesday
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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