Sewer sys­tem’s up­grade wraps up

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - HICHAM RAACHE

WEST FORK — The city is close to wrap­ping up a sewer in­fra­struc­ture up­grade that is a cru­cial step to re­ceive sewer ser­vice from Fayet­teville.

West Fork has re­ceived wa­ter from Fayet­teville for more than 40 years, and is now close in ob­tain­ing sewer ser­vices.

Mayor Heith Cau­dle said the city’s sewer sys­tem was es­tab­lished in the early 1970s when EPA re­quire­ments were not as strict. The sewer sys­tem was lo­cated in a flood­plain and over the past 50 years the sys­tem has be­come ob­so­lete, he said.

“We’re ba­si­cally at ca­pac­ity,” Cau­dle said. “We don’t have a lot of ca­pac­ity left if our pop­u­la­tion were to in­crease.”

The city’s pop­u­la­tion was es­ti­mated at 2,550 in 2016 and 2,317 in 2010, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau.

“We are def­i­nitely hav­ing steady growth; not fast growth but steady growth in hous­ing,” said Kristie Dry­mon, the city’s fi­nance di­rec­tor and trea­surer.

The city has in­stalled new sewer in­fra­struc­ture for the past eight months in prepa­ra­tion of the tran­si­tion. Work is be­ing done in the North­wood, South­wood and West­wood streets area, with lines be­ing con­nected to homes and then tested. That work will wrap up by the end of this month, Cau­dle said.

“We had to dig up the streets to place the new sewer line through the neigh­bor­hood, so the streets were a dis­as­ter,” Cau­dle said.

Street re­pairs will fol­low once the up­grades are done.

“Orig­i­nally, the plan was to come back and pour con­crete over all the places the roads had been cut, but the roads would have looked like a zip­per be­cause all of the cuts back and forth,” Cau­dle said. “But we worked it out with the con­trac­tor who was do­ing the sewer project, and in­stead of do­ing the con­crete patch, they’re go­ing to do an as­phalt over­lay of the en­tire street, so it’s go­ing to be like a brand new street.”

Road repaving should be com­pleted by the end of Au­gust, Cau­dle said.

The in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments cost about $2 mil­lion. Ac­tu­ally ty­ing the sys­tem into Fayet­teville will cost $6 mil­lion to $8 mil­lion, Cau­dle said.

A 12-inch trans­mis­sion force main will con­nect West Fork to Fayet­teville’s sewer treat­ment sys­tem, said Tim Nyan­der, Fayet­teville Wa­ter Util­i­ties di­rec­tor.

“We’ll start that project when they’re com­plete with their sewer re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion that they’re do­ing right now,” Nyan­der said.

Ease­ments will have to be ob­tained and a lift sta­tion built to fa­cil­i­tate the con­nec­tion, Nyan­der said.

The cost of the in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment was funded by a bond is­sue that was ap­proved on June 14, 2016, and is­sued on Aug. 19, 2016, Dry­mon said.

The city will re­im­burse the state’s Depart­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion for the bond through wa­ter and sewer rev­enues, Dry­mon said.

An ad­di­tional bond will have to be ob­tained to pay for the cost to con­nect West Fork to Fayet­teville. That bond, if passed, will be paid back through sewer rev­enues, Dry­mon said.

Sewer bills for West Fork res­i­dents will go up.

“There’s no doubt about that to pay this bond,” Cau­dle said. “We can­not de­ter­mine how those rates will be af­fected. The state has told us to ex­pect a rate in­crease, but we don’t know how much yet.”

House­holds re­ceive a wa­ter and sewer bill in which the sewer cost mir­rors the wa­ter cost, Cau­dle said.

The av­er­age West Fork wa­ter and sewer bill ranges from $55 to $60, Dry­mon said.

Sewer bills have not gone up yet, Cau­dle said.

“We would like to in­crease the bill in steps in­stead of one jump at the end of the project,” he said.

Tin­ker Bar­low, an eightyear West Fork res­i­dent, said he is against an in­crease and that the sewer sys­tem seems to be work­ing fine as it is.

“My wa­ter is al­ready too high,” Bar­low said. “It’s way more than what I want to pay.”

City lead­ers hope to re­ceive some for­giv­able bonds due the av­er­age low house­hold in­come, Dry­mon said. West Fork’s me­dian house­hold in­come is $44,006, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­sus web­site. The state’s me­dian house­hold in­come was $41,371, ac­cord­ing to 2015 Cen­sus data.

For­giv­able bonds will lessen the sewer bill in­crease for res­i­dents.

“Any­thing we don’t have to pay back will help in what our rates have to be,” Dry­mon said.

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