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Developers of a prospective subdivision off Whitfield Road have been granted a water main extension, the first one the city has allowed in the unincorporated area in several years, city officials said earlier this week.

The city's engineering department in October granted developers Thomas and Bonnie Turner's request for an approximately 1,000-foot extension of the 6-inch main on Whitfield Road.

The application they submitted in September said the extension will serve eight lots in Paradise Ridge Estates, which is accessed by Ridgehaven Drive.

The amended water and wastewater connection and extension policy the Hot Springs Board of Directors adopted last year suspended extensions in the unincorporated area, but the city said the Whitfield Road extension is governed by the 1999 agreement with the Royal Water Public Facilities Board.

It oversees the large improvement district city officials have said comprises a geographical area more than three times the size of Hot Springs' corporate limits. The agreement obligates the city to provide water to all customers in the district and the infrastructure to connect new customers.

The district's board issued debt to pay for the distribution system, and customers pay an extra charge on their water bills to service the debt.

City Attorney Brian Albright said the agreement will remain in effect until the debt is retired. The distribution system will transfer to city ownership at that time. In the interim, the city is obligated to serve the district irrespective of the supply concerns that led the city board to amend the connection and extension policy last year.

"If for any reason the city's water supply is diminished, then the city will not discriminate against the customers within the jurisdiction of the (Royal Water Public Facilities Board)," the agreement said.

In addition to suspending extensions outside the corporate limits, the city's amended policy restricts unincorporated-area commercial connections to the planning area that extends up to one mile beyond the corporate limits.

The city secured a 23 million-gallon average day allocation from Lake Ouachita in May and approved a water rate increase last month to service the debt for the capital improvements needed to bring the water online. Its current supply and treatment capacity of 25 million gallons a day serves an average daily demand of about 8 to 9 million gallons, which takes about 15 million gallons of production to meet.

Deputy City Manager Bill Burrough told the city board last month that more than 1,700 new connections have been granted since the restrictions were first implemented in 2013. More than 1,000 of the approvals are in the unincorporated area.

Albright said service commitments to improvement districts have restricted the expansion of the water system, which currently serves more than 35,000 meters. About half are outside the city.

"This has been and continues to be a concern of the city," he said. "The contractual obligations that were made over the years limit the ability to continue the expansion of the city's water service beyond those obligations and existing connection and extension policy. The extent of this commitment is something that is being considered."

Local on 12/03/2017

Print Headline: Water main extension granted

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