Maumelle Water Management, the special improvement district that operates Maumelle’s water and sewer facilities, is studying changes to prevent a repeat of last summer’s nightmare after drought conditionsforced the company to restrict lawn watering nearly all summer.
Barry Heller, manager of the utility, told the Maumelle City Council Monday night they were starting a customer advisory committee and asked the council members and the public to offer suggestions of Maumelle residents to serve on the committee.
In response to questions, Heller said the committee would look at just about every aspect of the organization.
He said he was looking for two volunteers from each of the city’s four wards who would meet at least once a month for a two to three hour meeting.
He also said members would be expected to do research on their own outside of the meeting.
Alderman Ken Saunders asked Heller for specific topics the group would consider.
Heller answered the company’s 2060 infrastructure needs, treatment plants and well fields.
The company is evaluating and would like the committee’s assistance in looking at the option of purchasing water from Central Arkansas Water, as well as other potential water sources, he said.
Heller said he was unsure whether purchasing water from CAW was even feasible.. Someone asked if this wasn’t the same study MWM did a few years back when it reported it was cost prohibitive to merge with CAW.
Heller noted that was a merger evaluation and CAW required redoing several miles of pipeline and other infrastructure that could cost $40 to $60 million to replace.
But in this instance, MWM is considering purchasing water from CAW and as such existing lines could be used except where lines would have to be laid to hook up to their water source.
If that option were chosen, the wells would not be used any more, Heller said.
Heller said twelve wells are currently on line and three more are awaiting treatments to bring them back on line.
One well is in the process of development and should be on line in three months and three more proposed wells have Arkansas Health Department approval but need roads constructed just to get in to drill them.
Alderman Steve Mosley said he’d like to see the organization under democratic control with popularly elected commissioners.
Heller said the current three commissioners were elected democratically but just in a different fashion through the county judge’s appointment.
Mosley said he’d like to see the three commissioners sit down with the City Council.
Mayor Mike Watson noted the commissioners had met with the council before and could do it again anytime.
Heller also said the company is seeking input from engineering firms to determine its needs through 2060 without giving the firms a blank check to do everything they could but instead just what is required as a minimum.
Heller said right now CAW couldn’t meet MWM’s demand of 8 to 9 million gallons of water a day. He said they couldn’t even provide six million. But given time they might be able to provide what they needed.
Heller said the study could last up to eight months.
Heller said MWM is not looking to merge with CAW. In fact, he said he doubted such a large company could meet the demand in Maumelle,
"Do you think if they get a call at 2:30 a.m. where someone’s water has been shut off for non-payment, do you think they’d come out and turn it back on — we do."
He said its an all or nothing deal. We want to buy water from one source.
In response to questions, he said buying water from CAW would eliminate a few jobs but they’d continue to do the customer service work and the regulatory testing from the health department.