Cities’ pact adds 5,800 sewer taps
Plan for Lowell has customers paying portion for new setup
BY CHARLIE MORASCH ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Springdale and Lowell have agreed in principle to a new sewer contract that will make way for 5,800 new commercial and residential taps in Lowell.
The contract is expected to end a moratorium on additional sewer taps in Lowell and forestall Lowell’s plan for a large septic tank effluent pumping (STEP) system to provide sewage treatment for much of the city bordered by Interstate 540, Arkansas 264 and U.S. 71B.
"This is huge," Lowell Alderman Mike Solomon said. "That we were finally able to get a deal in place is the most exciting thing that’s happened to our city in years."
Springdale Water and Sewer Commission Chairman Chris Weiser, Springdale Water Utilities Executive Director Rene Langston and engineer Rick Pulvirenti negotiated with Lowell Mayor Phil Biggers last week and early this week before presenting the contract at Wednesday’s Springdale Water and Sewer Commission meeting.
The agreement calls for Lowell to pay $755,000, or 24 percent, of the $3.1 million cost of the Benton Farm Lift Station and a 16-inch sewer pipe to the lift station that is expected to be completed by fall.
Also, Lowell will pay a small portion, estimated at no more than $250,000, of the estimated $4 million cost of building transmission lines between two lift stations and a small line across I-540 in southern Lowell.
A monthly surcharge not to exceed $7 will be applied to each Lowell sewer customer, which Biggers said is a marked improvement over one proposal last year to charge Lowell residents anywhere from nothing to $30 a month extra.
"This locks us in — we know what each user surcharge will be," Biggers said.
Lowell can buy its system from Springdale after bond debt is retired and build its own sewage treatment plant or pump sewage to a different provider, Biggers said.
Lowell agreed to establish sewer impact fees of about $2,500 for a typical house and will deposit $800 of each fee into a fund that will be used for future upgrades of Springdale’s lift stations and pipes in Lowell.
The impact fees would be comparable those in other cities. Rogers charges $2,200.
"With 1,000 houses from new subdivisions, that’s $2.5 million," Solomon said.
Lowell had rejected previous sewer expansion proposals, but Langston said this version was more cost friendly for all involved.
"Your pocketbook is only so big," Langston said. "This is a downsized version of what we were trying to negotiate last year."
Springdale needs new sewer lift stations and lines in its undeveloped northern areas, and city utility officials were glad to incorporate the needs of both cities in the upgrade, Langston said.
"I think this is good for the region," Langston said. "Even though we have political boundaries we all face the same issues."
Lowell still plans to continue to allow developers to use STEP systems in outlying areas of town and on acreage on the west side of Interstate 540, Solomon said.
A final contract still must be approved by the commission and by both cities’ aldermen, Langston said.