Mountainburg gets $ 50,000 for survey for proposed water project

MOUNTAINBURG – A River Valley town received some much-needed assistance in its mission to bring potable water service to about 625 households.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Arkansas Natural Resources Commission on June 1 awarded Mountainburg a $ 50,000 grant for a cultural resources survey for its proposed north-central Crawford County water system, according to a news release. It was one of nine water and wastewater projects and four technical assistance programs for which the commission approved more than $ 35.4 million.

Mayor Susan Wilson said the town needs to have this cultural resources survey done to get the money to make the water project happen from various agencies, including the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the US Department of Agriculture. The Van Buren-based firm Hawkins-Weir Engineers estimated the project will cost $ 12.4 million.

Wes LeMonier of Hawkins-Weir Engineers said doing an environmental review of the project area is one of the requirements to apply for money through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program from US Department of Agriculture.

“In doing that, we have to send out environmental cross-cutter correspondence to several agencies, and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program is one of those agencies,” LeMonier said.

LeMonier said the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program requested a cultural resources survey be done during the review to make sure items such as historic artifacts and sites will not be disturbed by the project. Another part of the review will ensure the project will not affect threatened and endangered species of wildlife or their habitats.

Flat Earth Archeology of Cabot will do the cultural resources survey, according to LeMonier. It will take about two months to complete. It should take about another month for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and interested Native American tribes to review the report. The survey will be authorized pending approval of the $ 50,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

Wilson said the city applied for the grant in May.

The Project

Households in a certain part of Crawford County – between Mountainburg and Cedarville – from the Washington County line south to Rudy, aren’t served by any water system, Wilson has said. Residents who want water to use for drinking, cleaning or other purposes have had to either get it from wells or haul it in from an outside source, such as the Lake Fort Smith Water Treatment Plant. Mountainburg buys water from Fort Smith.

The water infrastructure project was developed by a committee of affected property owners and Hawkins-Weir Engineers, according to Wilson.

LeMonier said the project would add 68 miles of pipe from the town’s water distribution system to households in the affected area in one phase.

Wilson has said residents will be turned on to the water system over the course of the project.

Funding Needs and Agreements

Wilson said the survey and other requirements must be completed before Mountainburg can submit an application for project funding.

This includes additional audits, as well as a public meeting to inform residents about the project and some of the history behind it. This meeting, which took place at 6 pm Monday at Mountainburg High School and was required by the Department of Agriculture, was also meant to provide residents a way to voice concerns and ask questions about the project.

Wilson said the city will submit its grant application material to the Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission in October.

Crawford County’s Quorum Court approved allocating $ 2.5 million from the county’s American Rescue Plan fund for the project March 21. The ordinance outlining the allocation states the money will remain in the fund until the project is fully funded and construction has begun. It will revert to the county American Rescue Plan committee for redistribution if the project is not fully funded by Nov. 30.

The town plans to take out a loan when the project is complete to cover final expenses, according to Wilson. The loan is tentatively set at about $ 1.8 million right now.

Mountainburg is also still in the process of getting 400 signed water-user agreements and matching $ 100 deposits from property owners in the affected area. Wilson set the requirement to show funding agencies the water project would be sustainable if they approved financing for it. The $ 100 deposits, which are included in the project’s total cost, will serve as the participants “” buy-in “for construction if it is funded.

Wilson said the city has received 347 agreements as of Tuesday. County residents who do not sign a user’s agreement and provide a deposit will have to pay a $ 2,500 tap fee if they want to have their property connected to the water project.

Wilson said Mountainburg is set to have its next public meeting about the project at 6 pm Aug. 1 at City Hall. She plans to upload the information presented at Monday’s meeting, along with details of future meetings and a frequently asked questions page about the project, to the country website.

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