Lepanto City Council trying to get more feedback on water line replacement

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Lepanto City Council is looking for a way to get input from more citizens regarding how to pay for replacing the main water lines. In recent months, the city has been approved for a $1 million loan to replace 13,000 feet of galvanized water lines, some of which date back to the 1920s. According to Mayor Steve Jernigan, the city's water is tested every week by the Health Department and is free of bacteria and safe to drink. Rust from the corroded pipes is causing the discoloration.

Several citizens at Tuesday night's council meeting called on the council to take action on the water situation. The council held a public meeting in April, after which they voted to continue to look for grants to help pay for the water line replacement rather than raise water rates or try to pass a sales tax to help pay for the loan.

Mayor Jernigan told the council the loan has a deadline to accept, and the city has been rejected for grant requests. At numerous Municipal League meetings, Jernigan said he has asked around and been told the city will not be eligible for grants because its water rates are considered too low compared to the surrounding cities. He gave a copy of state water rates to the council and pointed out Lepanto has some of the lowest water rates in Northeast Arkanasas, making the city an unlikely candidate for a grant.

"I know no one wants to sign on for a 30 year loan or a sales tax increase, but it (the water line situation) is not going away," Jernigan said.

Council members Carlotta Tyler and Pete Cox said they would vote for a water rate increase if that was what the majority of the town wanted. But as the council pointed out, not many people showed up to the public meeting held in April.

The council discussed with citizens present different options to get more people to come and decided to send notification through a post office program called Every Door Direct Mail to encourage people to come to another public meeting. The purpose of this meeting would be for citizens to let the council know how they want them to proceed on the water issue. The city is looking into having it at the EPC cafeteria. A date and time for the meeting have not yet been set.

In other business, the council:

*approved an ordinance which prohibits living in a structure without water and sewer service. The penalty is $100 per day. After seven days, the city has the right to send a ten day notice before padlocking the structure.

*heard an update from City Attorney Noyl Houston regarding a lawsuit with Jancour Construction. In April of 2011, the council voted to pay Jancour $106,654.97 for completion of the sports complex, and voted not to pay $34,250 Jancour asked for the 137 days of work done after the agreed upon completion date of March 17, 2010. Jancour has filed suit against the city for liquidated damages and lost profits. The trial date is Aug. 19. The council voted to give discretionary authority to the mayor and city clerk to negotiate in the event of mediation, based on Houston's recommendation.

*heard an update on Wynetta Gaines' daycare center. The center has 22 enrolled through vouchers and grants, 38 total enrolled with 16 on the waiting list and 12 waiting to be approved on vouchers. The center is also working on writing or has received several grants to help with training, supplies, equipment, and food costs. Mayor Jernigan requested she report back next month with a report which includes a list of repairs and improvements made.

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