Trumann mayor says new well much needed

Saturday, August 6, 2016

On Sept. 13, Trumann voters will decide whether or not to pass a one-cent sales tax for various municipal improvements. According to Mayor Barbara Lewallen, the most important of the needed improvements is developing a new well.

The city of Trumann has two wells, both of which are approximately 1,100 feet deep. One of the wells was developed in the 1970s, but the main well--which the city has been having problems with--was developed in 1951. Lewallen said looking back in city records, the problems with the older well date back to at least 2009. At that time, the well was having pump problems, and Director of Public Works Scotty Jones recommended using water improvement funds to make repairs a top priority. The work was done, and there were no problems again until 2015.

"At the end of 2015, the well started producing a lot of iron, so it was taken offline" Lewallen said. "The whole thing was being monitored by the Arkansas Department of Health, and at no time was the iron level dangerous, but it caused discolored, yellow water." The well was serviced at a cost of about $9,000 and put back in service.

"It was all right for a while, but then we began to see yellowish water again," Lewallen said. The well company came back in and pulled the pump, checked the 1,100 feet of pipe, cleaned the filter, washed down the well, and put a camera down to determine if there were cracks in the casing. "Because if there is a crack at higher elevations, it can pull water with more iron in," Lewallen said, explaining that this is why wells for drinking water have to be deeper than irrigation wells.

"They didn't find anything and put it back into service. Then we saw the yellow water again, so it's been taken offline again," Lewallen said. "To that point, $30,000 had been spent." The city council approved spending another $30,000 to get the well back into service, but Lewallen said what is really needed is a new well, which the Arkansas Department of Health has recommended. "The dilemma is how much money do you spend on a well when the Health Department has said we need to develop a new well?" Lewallen said.

An estimate for a new well is $450,000, and once it's developed, it could take between six months and two years before it can produce drinking water. "Trumann has always had good water, and we want to continue to provide excellent water," Lewallen said.

Lewallen said the city cannot use the bond money voted on last year because there is not enough, and it can only be spent on what is stated in the bond language, which did not include a new well. And the city does not qualify for grants for water department projects. "We don't qualify for grants because you have to have an average $30 monthly water bill per household, and our average base is $14 right now. We do not come anywhere near that. And our low-to-moderate income range is 41.9 percent, but the grants require 51 percent. So we are faced with deciding how to fund this necessary service to the city," Lewallen said.

Lewallen said the committees that discussed getting the funds to develop a new well did not want to raise water rates and felt a sales tax was the best option. "The budget council and city council both agreed the fairest way to pay for it is a sales tax because everyone helps. It doesn't burden property owners but spreads it out to everyone in the city, as well as people who come into the community to spend money at places like Walmart," Lewallen said. "That well project is the most critical need. It is the project we would work on first."

Another water system issue the tax would help with is replacing galvanized iron water lines, which is roughly estimated at $500,000. Lewallen said that would be a long-term, ongoing project that would have to be worked on a little at a time.

Lewallen praised the water department as a "loyal, hard-working crew. When they're called out to take care of an emergency, they do an excellent job, whether they're working out in the cold or staying overnight to keep the water going. Scotty Jones was named Water System Manager of the Year last year. He is a loyal department head who wants to provide good service to citizens."

Lewallen said city officials want to improve city infrastructure and city services. "The city administration in no way wants to burden citizens. We want to improve services, the city, and quality of life. We have set immediate goals and long-range goals in order to bring that about," Lewallen said.

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