In its monthly Thursday night meeting, April 12, the Clinton City Council approved over $1 mil. In expenditures for upgrades and repairs to the city’s water and sewer system. The vote was unanimous.

The votes to support the improvements took place after extended debate and discussion during a presentation by CWB Engineers, which had developed the proposal with the Water and Sewer Department.

Approved expenditures including $150,000 for replacement on a water line serving Highway 65B, $500,000 for a line addition which will move the pole yard pump station to stand-by status, and $670,000 to replace 3,350 feet of leaking residential sewer line. The money to fund the three projects was on-hand, held by the city in Certificate of Deposits generated from tax revenue earmarked for water department expenses. Of the expense, it was agreed $75,000 of the funding will come from existing funds in the Clinton Water and Sewer Department Infrastructure fund.

The decision to fund the work took place in a series of votes, and only after quite a bit of discussion between council members, Water and Sewer Department head Dickie Hink, and Oren Noble, who presented the engineering report to the council on behalf of CWB Engineers. Noble was familiar to the council, having presented previously regarding water and sewer projects undertaken by CWB for the Water Department, including project related to the Highway 65 expansion currently underway. Noble spent approximately one hour both presenting to and answering questions from the council.

The projects had been outlined in the past in the Water Department’s 10 year plan for infrastructure improvement. The 10 year plan, in turn, had been renewed regularly, Hink told the council, but no action had been taken on its terms prior to the Thursday vote.

Once the funding was agreed to and voted upon, Hink said, “We have been on a 10 year plan for 40 years, and this is the first time we have done anything about it.”

This same sentiment was expressed earlier by Councilman Jeff Pistole, who made the motion to fund the Pole Yard status change.

“This project needs to happen, now,” Pistole said, “We’ve been sitting on this money for 20 years now.”

The Pole Yard station was the site of a failure several years ago when the area went without water for several days until parts could be found to fix a broken pump. With the changes outlined, a line will be installed to supplement the system fed by the Pole Yard, moving that station to standby status.

The council had, in the month prior, approved $65,000 to fund the study to assure the change in water system routing. The test was needed to assure water system pressure would remain stable after any changes, Hink had told the council.

While presented second in the list of projects to the council, the Pole Yard changes were the first ones voted on and approved.

Additionally approved was the replacement of a water line on Highway 65B after that 4 inch line had “ruptured multiple times in recent months,” the engineering report stated. Approval of $150,000 would change the line to connect to an 8 inch line on Highway 16.

The council was given the option of the project at $140,000, but having to cross a creek, requiring additional oversight from the Corp of Engineers and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. This could, the council was told, lead to delays and ultimately higher costs. The option not including the creek crossing was approved.

The final project was due to a sewer line rupture on Gary Street, leading to sewer waste being discharged into the area, including homeowner’s lawns. The city had gotten a letter from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) requesting a response plan, Hink told the council, sharing a copy of the letter with them.

Noble, with CWB, explained to the council that “sewer is more costly” than water lines, hence the $670,000 expense for this project. The council queried Noble on several points of the project, including Councilwoman Gayla Bradley asking if the project could not be set up for a draw instead of a single payment of $670,000.

A draw, while possible, would lead to much higher costs for contractors, Noble explained. As such this was not included in the proposal.

The council did discuss the problems with this size expense impacting the cash-on-hand, but did, ultimately, approve the expense.

“This [improvements to infrastructure] is something our city said they wanted when the elected us,” Councilman Sam Ward said.

In an after-meeting interview, Bradley and Ward both pointed out that the city was at one-time unable to approve infrastructure improvements during the time when water quality was at issue and AEDQ required that problem to be fixed first. This led to the implementation of a clarifier at the water plant, essentially a second tier water purification device.

Noble did, as the council questioned him on the proposal and the costs, point out that Clinton was by far not the only city facing such issues as infrastructure needed improvement or replacement. He used Heber Springs as one example, a city CWB is also working with, and it having to create a bond issue to cover expenses.

Pistole, to that point, asked if he knew of any other cities which had the cash, in effect, on hand, held in CDs derived from sales tax earmarked for water department 10 year plan.

Clinton was, Noble said, unique in having the money in place to fund the requirements.