Water, sewer rate hikes needed

Published 4:11 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Batesville charging customers less than other cities, Karr says

By Jeremy Weldon

The City of Batesville is losing much-needed income from the sale of water and sewage service to its residents at a time when aldermen are considering borrowing millions to repair and upgrade its sub-par infrastructure, according to Public Utilities Director David Karr.

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Karr made the report to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen at its first of the month meeting, saying that during weekdays the population of Batesville swells to more than 10,000 daily, and the rate customers pay for water and sewer isn’t enough to service the demand for that population number.

Karr said he has undertaken a study of other municipalities of similar size, and believes that Batesville’s rates are in the bottom 10 percent of the state’s cities and towns. The increase of cost to the city to provide services, coupled with the soon-to-be urgent need for water and sewage line upgrades, raising the rates is a must to continue operating at the current level.

“It’s not a popular thing with the people, but it will catch up to you in infrastructure if something is not done pretty soon,” Karr said. “It’s costing you more to provide it and pump it, so rates are going to have to be raised.”

Board members were also told that state officials had looked at the erosion problem along Sand Creek and did not approve a full repair. There is matching grant money available for that project and several other water/sewer problems all around the city.

Aldermen are expected to soon decide upon a plan to fund the needed upgrades. In short, the city has two main problems with the infrastructure. First, the growth of the east side of Batesville has overburdened the system, causing frequent backups during rains. Second, the main part of the sewer system is a labyrinth of pipes connected in a hodge-podge manner over years that continually needs repairs.

Karr said he is also working on a plan to repair the broken sidewalk on the north side of Panola Ave., and will make that area ADA compliant when the project begins. Upon his recommendation, the board also gave the go-ahead for the purchase of new flower containers for the Downtown Square.

The Batesville Garden Club requested large, concrete pots for flowers and other plantings. Several of the existing pots have cracked and begun to crumble. The city contracts with Herron Landscape for lawn maintenance and some of that agreement includes provisions for the company to provide new flowers to certain areas of the city twice a year.

Karr also reported that major improvements have begun at the Civic Center in preparation for a series of major cattle and horse shows scheduled for the next two years. Electrical upgrades to the equine portion adjacent to the main building were needed for the events, and those are almost completed.

In other business, aldermen tabled the approval of a contract offered by Johnson Controls for security system equipment ($4,796.32) and monthly monitoring ($281.02) upon the advice of assistant board attorney Colmon Mitchell.

Mitchell told aldermen he couldn’t advise them on the details of the contract because he couldn’t read it. He showed board members the contract, printed in a dark, thick font that was much smaller than normally used and with no paragraph breaks.

“This is the first contract I’ve ever read my entire legal career where the whole contract is printed in fine print,” he said. “Usually in a contract they give you stuff in normal print and then take it away in the fine print, but not this one. I can’t read it and they don’t want me to read it, otherwise they would have put it in print I could read.”

Karr said he would call the company and request a more readable version.