A recently announced decision by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office has cleared the way for the City of Shirley to continue the sale of its water department to Community Water System of Greers Ferry, in turn allowing upgrades to the city’s water system.

Community Water has been operating the city’s water system on an interim basis, pending the decision by the AG’s office. The city had decided to divest itself of the water system with the retirement of the water department superintendent Larry Dollar, coupled with the expense of maintaining the water system – including the need for new water meters and the repair of a main water line feeding the city.

The problem in turning over the Shirley water system to Community Water was the expense, City of Shirley Councilman David Cook explained. The sale price of the system to Community Water was agreed at $20,000. The problem was recently-passed legislation in the state which required competitive bidding for a city selling any property over $5,000. The city, Cook said, asked the AG’s office through State Representative Trevor Drown’s office if it could sell its water system to Community Water without the competitive bidding process – which could lead to delays in providing water service to the city.

The AG’s opinion, addressed to Drown, announced that the city could continue the sale without the competitive bid requirement.

Cook said the next step in the process is gathering the required signatures of those living inside Shirley city limits approving the sale. This step requires approval of property owners with preference given to those with the highest assessed value in property.

Cook indicated he did not expect any issues in completing this step.

The sale to Community Water allows the city to take advantage of a grant which will allow the replacement of its main water line coming into the city.

The current environment has a water line running along the bridge coming into town. The line is beginning to show wear, and has been a topic of concern for Shirley for some time now. The grant – which required the sale to Community Water before it would be allowed – will put a replacement water line in place. The replacement line, instead of using the bridge, will be run under the Little Red River, close to where the existing line crosses the river.

The replacement line is hoped to be in place “before the Spring rains,” Cook said. The city, Community Water and the engineering firm are currently in the process of gathering the required permits for the work, he said.