December 19, 2012 Edition

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Water bills to increase, city
employees receive bonuses

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council discussed new water rates, said goodbye to four outgoing council members and presented plaques to the widows of two former airport commissioners.

On behalf of the city, Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin presented plaques to Billie Joseph and Mona Hicks in honor of their late husbands for the years the men spent on the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission. Dr. Ralph Joseph and Harry Hicks both served many years on the commission.

Wallin said Joseph and Hicks helped make the airport what it is today. The time and effort they spent on behalf of the airport went above and beyond the call of duty, and they will not be forgotten in the years to come, he added.

City Water Works Manager Jonathan Kopp addressed the council and informed them that the city's water bills will reflect an increase in February. The increase begins Jan. 1, but will not show up on January's bills.

"The water rates reflect only those charges sufficient to support water service," Kopp said. "One-hundred percent of this increase is a result of rising costs in general operations, materials and the buying of water from the Northeast Arkansas Public Water Authority."

An overall increase of $2 per thousand gallons used will be applied to current water rates. The current rate of $3.50 per thousand will now be $5.50. The increase only applies to water rates; sewer rates will not be affected.

Kopp said the City Water Works has and will continue to work diligently in order to cut internal costs as well as improve the operating efficiency of the city's water system.

Some cities expected to join the Northeast Arkansas Public Water Authority have not yet joined, but it is hoped they will join in the future so rates can be lowered for current and new members.

Kopp said they are also currently seeking funding for smoke tests on the city's sewer lines. Any breaches in the lines make the system less cost effective.

Gary Little has been named chair of the City Water Board, Leroy Johnson, whose term expires in January, was reappointed to the board and Matt Nichols will complete A.J. Henry's unexpired term. Henry retired from the board earlier this year.

The seat on the airport commission left vacant by the death of Harry Hicks will be filled by Neil Vaccari.

The council voted to give city employees end-of-year bonuses. Full-time employees will receive $125, part-time employees will get $75 and volunteer firemen will receive $50 each.

Aldermen who chose not to seek re-election and will be leaving the council were presented with plaques of appreciation. Mike Phillips has served on the council for two years, Paula Haskins for six years, Spencer sPonder for eight years and Dirk Davis for 16 years.

Mayor Don House thanked them for their years of service to the city.

The council also discussed a preliminary budget for next year. The new budget will be presented to them at their January meeting.

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