October 5, 2011 Edition

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Hoxie's Dec. 10 bills
to reflect new rates

Gretchen Hunt

A water and sewer increase has been a long time coming, but that doesn't stop it from being hard on some residents, according to Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker.

The last time rates went up was in 2005, and it was not sufficient as a tight budget has prevented putting money back into the infrastructure.

"Now, the cost will be set by the Northeast Arkansas Water Authority," Tinker said. "The rate increase was necessary for the water and sewer department to remain self-sustaining."

Hoxie's rates have been much lower than nearby communities, including Walnut Ridge. Rates will now be more comparable.

That change will be of some benefit to the town, as it will now be able to apply for grant funds to make improvements.

"Hoxie has not been able to qualify for federal or state grants because the water and sewer rates were too low," he said.

For approximately 240 residents, the new rates will actually result in a lower bill because minimum usage will now be 1,000 gallons instead of 2,000 gallons. The new minimum bill will be $20.88, compared to $27.58.

But for many, bills will increase and some will more than double if there is no change in usage.

"Before there was a sliding scale, the more water you used, the cheaper it got," Tinker said. "Now it stays the same."

Tinker said when the first month's bills were prepared, several were over $100, and he and the council felt giving residents a chance to make adjustments was the right thing to do.

"The ladies worked really hard to reprint the bills and hand wrote sample on all the bills that had been prepared showing what the bill would have been with the rate increase," he said.

Tinker said a delay in the startup of the Northeast Arkansas Water Authority, which will provide water to Hoxie, allowed the city to hold off on rate increases for two months. November's bill, which will be due Dec. 10, will be the first month for the new rates.

"We are hoping this will give residents time to work on their water usage," he said. "If they have a leak, they should address it right away."

Tinker recommended the EPA water sense website found at www.epa.gov/WaterSense.

Tips include upgrading toilets to water-conserving models, or in the case that an upgrade is not affordable, displace some of the water in the tank using bricks or a two-liter bottle filled with pebbles.

"We are asking residents to focus on what they can do as an individual to reduce usage," Tinker said. "It can be as simple as turning the water off when you're brushing your teeth."

Tinker said city hall is also distributing flyers from Entergy regarding free water-efficient shower heads, which not only help with water conservation, but also energy-efficiency as less hot water is used.

Another service offered is small food coloring packets, which are available at city hall and can be used to make sure water is not leaking from toilet tanks, into the bowl.

"Some of the biggest losses of water come from leaks out of the back of the toilet," Tinker said. "You can put food coloring in the tank, and if it shows up in the bowl, you know you have a leak."

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