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Water, Sewer Rate Increase Announced

White River Now Article

Southside residents will see a bump in some utility rates next year.

According to a release from the Southside Public Water Authority (SPWA), the utility’s board voted to increase water and sewer rates at its meeting earlier this month. The increase is due to combating inflating costs the utility has experienced over the last few years, the release said.

SPWA officials said the new rate structure was “…designed to limit the effect on customers considering the current economic climate.”

“Rising fuel costs have driven up everything the authority purchases for operation and maintenance, including water treatment chemicals,” SPWA manager Scott Williams said in the release. “Chemicals have increased significantly during this timeframe, with average chemical pricing rising 26%. Sodium Hypochlorite, our primary disinfectant, has risen 102% with expectations that it will continue to increase. Rail transport costs have a dramatic effect on bulk chlorine related products, so we must expect further increases as the rail workers union negotiations continue. Water and sewer repair products have increased an average of 90%, with many increasing between 135-235%. Manufacturers are still struggling to produce the necessary product as well. Items we previously received within two weeks are now taking up to six months to receive. This has left systems scrambling to secure product necessary for their operations.”

The release noted Williams presented the SPWA Board of Directors with a rate study before determining the appropriate rate adjustment.

“The directors trimmed rate increases as much as possible, giving consideration to low-use fixed income homes, as well as the authority’s large consumers. We want to continue to attract chicken growers to our area with moderate rates. Some water providers in our area are currently charging $8-9 per 1000 gallons which has been fueled by the newly passed Act 605 of 2021,” said Williams.

The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) is taking control of water rate structuring within the State of Arkansas to ensure utilities have the funds necessary to operate according to regulatory drinking water laws. This includes collection of money for capital improvement projects that relate to long range planning for each utility, the SPWA release said.

“We are prepared to present as much information as possible to ANRC to help keep our rates as low as possible,” said Williams.

(Click here for information on Act 605.)
New customers without usage history will be charged a fixed monthly rate of 5,000 gallons per month until a November through February average is established. For the next 12 months, the fixed monthly charge will be based on the previous November through February average water usage, ranging from a base fee of $30 (minimum/zero gallons) to a fixed rate of $3.00/1000 gallons.

The release also noted SPWA Office Manager Katie Richardson wants poultry growers to be aware of Act 970 (see below), which was amended in April of 2021. The act allows a sales and use tax exemption for their farms concerning utilities, including water.

“Katie has been preparing to reach out to our chicken farmers so they can take advantage of these savings,” said Williams.

In other business, 2023 budgets consisting of $3,073,962.00 for water operations, and $643,510.00 for wastewater operations were adopted.

The board also learned that Position 7 currently held by Gary Mize will be up for election at the authority’s annual meeting Feb. 14, 2023. Article III of the authority’s policy and procedures handbook states that a person wishing to be elected to the board of directors make their intent known at least 35 days prior to the annual meeting by filing a form at the authority’s business office specifying the position they intend to run for. The deadline for filing is Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023 at 4:30 p.m. Mize has filed for reelection to his respective board position. Act 605 of 2021 does require all new board members to complete eight hours of training within one year of being elected.