City & County

Water rate hike proposed

By Joel Phelps
The Arkadelphian

Customers of Arkadelphia Water Utilities will be seeing a change in their water bills come this fall.

The City of Arkadelphia is anticipating a rate adjustment to its monthly water fees. Rates will continue rising on an annual basis until 2026. The City Board of Directors have yet to vote on which combination of base and unit rates and annual percentage increases.

Three scenarios were discussed Tuesday during a workshop between the city board and water committee, and directors proposed the numbers be plugged into a fourth option they seemed to prefer. Each scenario ended with the same final rate.

Following City Manager Gary Brinkley’s presentation, directors asked for a fourth scenario proposing a base rate increase of $9. The unit rate would remain the same for the remainder of the year. Both the base rate and the unit rate would increase by 8 percent annually from 2023 to 2026.

By 2026, water and sewer rates for the average user will be $55.06, plus the $15 fee from the Sanitation Department.

It’s been nine years since Arkadelphia adjusted its water rates. A lot has changed in the past nine years for the city’s Water Department, the city said in a press release. From a new water treatment facility, annual pipe repairs and increasing inflation rates, the Water Department is no longer operating at a sustainable rate.

“The cost of proper and necessary maintenance has risen considerably in the last few years but our rates have remained the same since 2013,” said David Green, utilities manager. “We’re at a point now where we have more needs than we have cash to spend on projects that have to be completed in the next five years.”

The city has worked with Crist Engineers to develop a water rate study, which resulted in three scenarios to get the Water Department to reach “financial buoyancy” within the next five years.

Water rates are calculated by adding the base rate to the unit rate, the sum of which equals the monthly cost. The lowest base rate includes up to the first 2,000 gallons of usage per month, and 60 percent of the city’s residential customers fall into the next category of 4,000-gallon-per-month users.

The base rate has been at $8.30 the past nine years, with the average consumer paying a monthly base of $12.61. Throughout the state, City Manager Gary Brinkley said, Arkadelphia falls in the bottom 2 percent of all city water rates. The addition of sewage and trash pickup fees is why residents see a larger number on their water bill.

The full presentation presented to the city board can be seen at http://www.arkadelphia.gov or by clicking here.

Directors are scheduled to vote on the rate adjustments at their April 19 meeting.

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