MAYFLOWER — Following a public workshop Tuesday evening, city officials plan to raise sewer rates to pay for improvements to the Mayflower wastewater treatment plant.
City officials were tasked with creating a corrective action plan after the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the city to make repairs to the wastewater treatment facility after the plant was damaged by the historic 2019 Arkansas River Flood.
CEW Engineers, Inc. worked with Crews & Associates, Inc. in developing a rate increase to cover a $5 million capital improvement project so that the city can make the necessary improvements before it is fined by the ADEQ.
The Mayflower City Council was tasked Tuesday with selecting one of two options – raise all water customers’ bills by 12 percent over a three-year period or raise all sanitary sewer rates by 52 percent over a three-year period.
Mayflower Water Superintendent Raymond Arnold and city council members present for the one-hour workshop – aldermen Brian Williams, Stacin Dawson and Will Elder – supported putting the burden of funding the new wastewater facility on sewage customers as opposed to making all residents (and those living outside city limits using Mayflower’s water system) pay for the wastewater repairs.
“I [would] feel bad about putting inside rates to those living outside the city,” Elder said.
Williams said that “water only customers don’t deserve” a hefty rate increase.
The city must move forward with an action plan soon to avoid being fined up to $10,000 per day because the treatment plant is considered out of compliance following the flood.
The 2019 historic flooding event created issues with the treatment facility’s ammonia and fecal matter levels to rise out of compliance from ADEQ and EPA standards. The floodwaters also destroyed the liner in the holding area that was expected to last until 2033.
“When the flood happened, it overtopped everything,” CWB Engineers Project Manager Oren Noble explained to city aldermen during a workshop held in March. “There was maybe just … [a portion] at the pump station that was out. Also, a contact chamber was flooded. Everything was completely flooded and submerged. The problem it causes was for the liner to fail – the lagoon system has a liner [and] it failed. The liner has been removed, the sludge has been dredged and the soil that was underneath it, I would say, is poor at best.”
A public workshop was held at 5 p.m., Tuesday and the full quorum convened at 7 p.m. for the regularly-scheduled city council meeting.
They Mayflower City Council unanimously voted in support of Option 2, which features an overall rate increase of 52 percent to sewage customers. The rate would be increased over a three-year period – 20 percent in September 2020, 20 percent in September 2021 and 12 percent in September 2022.
“The average monthly bill for inside customers based on 4,000 gallons/month will be increased a total amount of $16.47 over three years,” according to a letter sent by Noble to Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland on Monday.
While the council voted in support of the proposed increase, a vote to approve the ordinance at hand will not be taken until the July city council meeting. A public hearing is expected to be held prior to the July meeting.
Should the Mayflower City Council formally approve the proposed ordinance on July 28, sewage customers both inside and outside the city would see a rate increase in September.
Those living inside city limits would see $5.38-rate increase in September. This 20 percent increase would make the average bill (based on a 4,000 gallon per month usage) $74.08 and bring in $83,340 for bond payments.
Rates would increase another $6.45 in September 2021, which would make the average customer’s bill $80.53. The final increase of 12 percent would be applied in September 2022. This increase would be $4.64 and make the average bill cost $85.17.
For customers who live outside city limits, their rates would increase by $6.38 following the first 20 percent rate increase. In September 2021, outside customer rates would go up by $7.65, making the average bill cost $87.73. The final 12 percent increase for outside customers would feature a $5.51 rate increase that would be imposed in September 2022.
It would take the city 30 years to pay back the $5 million bond debt with the proposed rate increases.