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While the weather outside is still cold and the roads are still frozen, Mountain Home City Council is still set to meet for the first of its regularly weekly sessions tonight.
The agenda for tonight will be short, with only two items being taken up by City Council. The first item of the night will be an ordinance to redefine the city’s wage scale and compensation plan.
Those changes are being made to include the pay schedule for police certification pay and to include the fire trainer and 2023 EMT incentive pay scale. Those incentives were approved to receive a $100 increase per month in the city’s 2023 budget. Tonight’s ordinance would ensure that the new wage scale would cover the pay period starting on Jan. 30.
For the second item of the night, City Council will take up discussion for a resolution authorizing Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams to apply for assistance administered by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to complete work at the city’s wastewater management plant.
During City Council’s last session, City Treasurer Alma Clark gave a presentation requesting authorization to enter a loan agreement with the Arkansas Natural Resources Council for the second phase of its wastewater treatment plant upgrade for an additional $7 million.
Rising costs have made an additional loan necessary to complete construction at the treatment plant. If tonight’s resolution is approved, Mayor Adams can begin the process of applying for that additional money.
The City of Mountain Home has been working to upgrade and update much of its water treatment systems and sewer systems over the past few years, with the city selling $10 million in bonds to fund the projects after receiving taxpayer approval.
Much of the city’s equipment is older, with some of its water pumps being 30 years old. Finding replacement parts for equipment has also become difficult over the years as much of the city’s tools and equipment are proprietary.
Costs for operating the plants have also gone up over the years. Currently, Mountain Home uses chlorine and sulfur dioxide gas to treat the water that citizens use in their daily lives. The gas has seen a spike in cost as the U.S. economy struggles with inflation. Chlorine gas has also become more difficult to find due to break down’s in the supply chain.
The city’s sewer systems have also been running a deficit over the past few years. While the city has found ways to cover that deficit, the days of covering down are ending as the deficit is expected to climb to 50% by 2024, potentially driving up consumer rates.
To combat these difficulties, the city has begun to look at switching over to a new UV light system for its water treatment facilities and replacing much of its aging equipment. The move to the new system will lower costs for the city in the long run while also making the city less reliant on dangerous gas shipments coming in from chemical plants.
Once completed, the city expects to turn its deficit into a surplus over time. Money raised from the sale of the bonds is earmarked to be used to complete the city’s water facility projects and may not be used in a general manner.