Wash­ing­ton County Dis­trict Re­ceives Loans For Sewer Line

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Ron Wood

— The Arkansas Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mis­sion agreed to pro­vide $4 mil­lion in loans to build a sewer line from the Val­ley View sub­di­vi­sion to Prairie Grove.

“It’s about 2.5 miles,” said Jerry Kopke, Arkansas state co­or­di­na­tor with Com­mu­ni­ties Un­lim­ited, a non­profit ru­ral de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion which was ap­pointed to over­see the sewage sys­tem. “We still have to se­cure the ease­ments and bid out the pro­ject then we’re look­ing at about 12 to 18 months con­struc­tion pe­riod.”

Kopke said a rate in­crease will be needed to pay off the loans but he’s not yet sure how much that will be.

Wash­ing­ton County Prop­erty Own­ers Im­prove­ment Dis­trict No. 5 is the owner of the trou­bled com­mu­nity sewer sys­tem that pro­vides ser­vice to about 500 cus­tomers in Val­ley View Es­tates, Wal­nut Grove Acres and Meadow Sweet sub­di­vi­sions in Farm­ing­ton and Prairie Grove.

Com­plaints from res­i­dents about the sewer sys­tem started in 2011 ac­cord­ing to the Arkansas Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity’s web­site. Nu­mer­ous state in­spec­tions found un­treated waste­water over­flowed from the sys­tem’s aer­a­tor hold­ing pond.

The sys­tem was placed in re­ceiver­ship in April 2016 in re­sponse to a law­suit filed by Wash­ing­ton County, Farm­ing­ton, Prairie Grove, Rausch Cole­man Val­ley View and Val­ley View Es­tates Sub­di­vi­sion Prop­erty Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. The law­suit asked the court to ap­point a re­ceiver to take over the sewer sys­tem be­cause of the “dan­ger of harm to the health and safety of res­i­dents in the sub­di­vi­sion and the dan­ger to the en­vi­ron­ment as a whole.”

The Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mis­sion voted March 21 to loan the prop­erty owner’s as­so­ci­a­tion up to $3.6 mil­lion from the Arkansas Wa­ter, Waste Dis­posal and Pol­lu­tion Abate­ment Fa­cil­i­ties Gen­eral Obli­ga­tion Bonds, ac­cord­ing to Mark Ben­nett, chief of wa­ter de­vel­op­ment di­vi­sion at the com­mis­sion. The loan is for 32 years at 4.25 per­cent in­ter­est. The money is set aside for projects such as Val­ley View.

A de­ferred loan of up to $1.03 mil­lion from the Arkansas Wa­ter, Sewer and Solid Waste fund was also ap­proved Wednes­day,

“It’s a long-term so­lu­tion for a long-time prob­lem. And, there was pent-up de­mand with de­vel­op­ment in the area.” Jerry Kopke

Com­mu­ni­ties Un­lim­ited

ac­cord­ing to Ben­nett. The loan is for 30 years with a re­pay­ment sched­ule of 25 years at 5 per­cent in­ter­est. There will be no in­ter­est or prin­ci­ple pay­ments for five years.

“This is a step to go for­ward to get per­ma­nent fi­nanc­ing to con­struct the line from the ex­ist­ing sub­di­vi­sion all the way to Prairie Grove,” Ben­nett said.

The new loans are in ad­di­tion to a $1 mil­lion loan from the com­mis­sion in Novem­ber for en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign work and to ob­tain ease­ments to con­nect the area to Prairie Grove’s sewer sys­tem.

“I’m go­ing to have to cal­cu­late the debt ser­vice,” Kopke said. “We’re go­ing to have to start charg­ing a flow charge to re­flect our dis­posal fees to the city of Prairie Grove. We’ll get a monthly bill from them that will be ba­si­cally charged on the flow that we send to Prairie Grove for treat­ment.”

Kopke said the ini­tial charge will be about $6.22 per 1,000 gal­lons. The charge is cur­rently $6.19 per 1,000 gal­lons.

Some of the money is pay­ing to haul sewage to Prairie Grove’s plant un­til the pipe is laid. Sewage from houses served by the sys­tem goes into a hold­ing pond and from there it has been pumped and hauled by pri­vate com­pa­nies.

Wash­ing­ton County Cir­cuit Judge John Threet ap­pointed Kopke and Com­mu­ni­ties Un­lim­ited as the re­ceiver last year. Threet signed an or­der on Nov. 13 to al­low the im­prove­ment dis­trict to en­ter into an agree­ment with the Re­sources Com­mis­sion for loans.

Kopke said the prop­erty own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion may part­ner with Prairie Grove to pro­vide sewer ser­vice along U.S. 62 be­tween Farm­ing­ton and Prairie Grove. Prairie Grove’s city lim­its ex­tend well east of the Illi­nois River but they have not been able to pro­vide waste­water ser­vice to the area be­cause they do not have lines ex­tend­ing that far east, lim­it­ing de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial. Prairie Grove would be re­spon­si­ble for any ad­di­tional costs.

“It’s a long-term so­lu­tion for a long-time prob­lem,” Kopke said. “And, there was pent-up de­mand with de­vel­op­ment in the area.”

Ear­lier man­agers had signed con­nec­tion agree­ments with de­vel­op­ers be­fore the real es­tate crash of 2008 but the home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion had no op­er­at­ing per­mit so there was a mora­to­rium on any new con­struc­tion in the area, Kopke said.

“Now we have a per­mit and our ca­pac­ity is go­ing to in­crease so we’re see­ing a lot of in­ter­est for growth that will ben­e­fit not only the sewage sys­tem but will ben­e­fit the cities of Farm­ing­ton and Prairie Grove,” Kopke said.

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