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Water rates will probably be going up for residents of the Forest Hill Subdivision, but city board members may consider alternatives to a $20.89 price hike.

Board members passed the second reading of Ordinance 18-08 at their May 1 meeting, which will bring the water rates from East-Side Rural Water District, which encompasses Forest Hill Subdivision, up from $6.27 for the first 1,000 gallons of water to $26.16 for the first 1,000 gallons -- the same rate that other residents outside the city pay. However, they asked city administrator Phillip Patterson to review the rates with city staff to possibly come up with some alternatives.

"We're losing money on that district today," Patterson said. "The rates have to increase, there's no doubt about that. We can maybe debate on what exactly the rates should be, or this calculation or that calculation, but staff will be happy to take a look at it. We'll re-run our numbers, we'll sharpen our pencils again to make sure we believe its the right thing to do, and we may propose an amendment before the third reading, we may not."

The East-Side Rural Water District was created when the subdivision was developed in 2007. The subdivision is located about three miles east of the city near Bill Young Road. Since the city didn't have a water line in the vicinity, city officials agreed to purchase water from the Benton-Washington County Regional Public Water Authority, also known as Two-Ton, and sell it to customers in the subdivision.

Because the rates for the East-Side Rural District were buried in a separate section of code from other water rates, they were not increased over the years. For example, outside city rates were $5.12 in 2007 and have increased to $27.16.

Residents of the subdivision received a letter about the rate increase in March, and city board members approved the first reading of the ordinance increasing water rates on April 17.

Samuel Marney, a resident of Forest Hills Subdivision, appeared before the city board last week. He pointed out that the East-Side Rural Water District was created to be a special district and was never intended to be on the same level as other customers.

Marney said that Gentry water customers who live outside the city limits, and receive water from Two-Ton, have a water rate of $15 for the first thousand gallons, while Decatur water customers outside the city limits pay $9.60 for the first thousand gallons.

Marney said that Two-Ton charges Siloam Springs $2.43 for the water, compared to a cost of $3.21 for city water.

"To me a rate of $2.43 that jumps up to $27.16 seems a little outrageous," Marney said. "By no means would anyone in Forest Hills appreciate being a burden to the city. For sure, we want to do right by the city, but a comparison of cost between the city's own supply cost of $3.20, raised to the rate of inside (city limits) of $14.10. The difference between a processing cost and what residents of the city are charged is $10.90. By the same measure, the difference between those in Forest Hills would be a $24.73 difference in cost. That's about $14 difference, for some reason, again I understand maintenance cost."

Marney proposed charging Forest Hills Subdivision residents the same rate of $14.10 that customers inside the city pay.

City director Steve Beers asked about the possibility of applying a ratio to the water costs, which would make the Forest Hills rate closer to $20.

City director Bob Coleman suggested taking a simple math approach.

"The water that we sell costs $3.21, the water we buy from two-ton is $2.43. That's a $0.78 cent difference. ... So in my mind, I could justify deducting that $0.78 from the $27.16 and coming up with $26.38 and everybody is on equal footing," Coleman said.

Mayor John Turner suggested moving forward with the second reading of the ordinance so it can move forward, then allowing staff to present any suggested amendments at the May 15 board meeting.

In other business, Beers, who represents Ward 1, announced that he does not plan to run in the upcoming election. Director Frank Johnson, who represents Ward 3, said he does plan to run for re-election.

Four city board positions -- Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4 -- are up for re-election this year. The filing period for qualified candidates begins on May 16 and ends at noon on May 31.

Board members also approved the acceptance of a $10,500.86 trauma grant from the Arkansas Department of Health for the purchase of medical and rescue equipment.

The grant will be used to purchase five new video laryngoscopes and a new rescue basket, according to Brent Ford, emergency services director for the fire department. The new laryngascores will replace outdated video laryngoscopes, designed for difficult airway treatment. The rescue basket is used to transport patients across uneven terrain or other technical rescue situations.

Board members took the following additional actions:

• Appointed David Jackson to represent the city on the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority Board to replace Shelley Simmons, who recently resigned.

• Approved the first reading of Ordinance 18-09 to rezone 855 S. Wright St., from R-2 to R-3.

• Approved the first reading of Ordinance 18-10 to rezone 519 S. Hico St. from R-3 to R-4.

• Approved Ordinance 18-11 to contract with the Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County to provide sporting activities for the youth of Siloam Springs for the next three years at a cost of $85,000.

General News on 05/09/2018

Print Headline: City moves forward with raising Forest Hills water rates

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