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Water issues dominate council meeting

By John Miller, 09/20/22 10:14 AM

PRESCOTT – Water problems were the main topic of discussion at the September meeting of the Prescott City Council Monday night.

Perry Nelson, water and sewer department supervisor, said there was a problem with source water at the river and the department lost all pumping capability for a couple of weeks as the intake lines were stopped up. Initially, he said, the correcting the problem was attempted in-house using the department’s equipment. However, the jet machine used to remove the silt did the job, but a diver found a pipe half closed. It, too, was cleared out, but the sand moved aggressively and covered the pipe two feet deep.

Nelson said this required equipment the city doesn’t have and contacted RBIS of Texarkana. RBISĀ  pulled an intake pump and cleaned the sane, while also installing an air line on each intake pump basket screen to help clean without divers. He contacted A.L. Franks Engineering for a longer term solution for the sand issue. A plan was developed to dredge around the end of the intake pipe, use the city’s sewer cleaner to clean it and install a fitting on the end of the intake pipe to raise it two-feet above the sane. This was do be done in mid-August, but wasn’t implemented because on July 23 the intake pumps completely quit.

Again, the sewer cleaner was used, but it was found sand had moved around the end of the intake pipe and was surrounding it, two-feet above the intake. Nelson told the council the river had moved and covered the intake pipe in a month. Where the river should have been 7.5 feet deep, it was only 3.5 feet deep. RBIS was contacted and moved their plans to start on Aug. 1. Work actually began on Aug. 2, with sand being removed from the intake and the pipe cleaned again. Divers verified the cleaning and preparation for the installation of a new fitting. Basically, divers mapped the bottom of the river and found a place to keep the intake from sand. This was 240-feed downstream from the intake valve.

Nelson said this is a “long-term temporary solution” which should last years and give the city time to come up with a more permanent way of dealing with the sand. He pointed out this was done as an emergency project, and there was no time to consultĀ  with the council to get approval as the city was running out of stored water. The cost was $163,577.40 for the job. Nelson reminded the council the city had more than $300,000 in federal funds from the America Recovery Program Act that could be used to cover the cost of the project.

Nelson said this solution should last for years, but something will have to be done to solve it completely.

Councilman Howard Austin said the flow of the river determines the project and when there’s a lot of rain it pushes the sand to the pipe.

Nelson said the plan is to get divers down next month to see how things look underwater. He pointed out the project was expensive and used all the pipe of this type in the US at the time. He told the council RBIS was the only ones who could do the job in a timely manner as they had the supplies and equipment. He added there’s no problem using ARPA money for this project as the funds are approved for water and sewer projects. In addition, he checked with the engineers who said there was no issues.

City Attorney Glenn Vasser suggested the council vote to ratify the project since it was done using ARPA funds. The council did.

Councilman Susie Meeks asked if the city knew about the cost before moving forward with the project. Nelson said yes and he’d talked with Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver about it. He said they had one day to decide and get the supplies.

Councilman Ivory Curry pointed out previous discussions for permanent solutions would cost millions. Nelson said around $3 million.

In other business, Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce said this is a busy time of year, and the fair went well, but took a lot of hands to pull off as it had a lot of moving parts. The next big event, she said, will be the annual Fall Festival. Some events at the festival will include the 5k Run-Walk, basketball shootout, fall pageant, Bunco tournament, kids run, and waterball tournament.

Hillery said she’s contacted a company to bring in rides and bounce houses to make the festival bigger than last year’s. Registration for the various tournaments, she continued, is down, and if people don’t participate they’ll be cancelled. She said registration is low for all tournaments, and with Tyson sponsoring the basketball tourney, there’s a good cash prize.

The Chamber, she added, is currently working on its community directory, put out every two years. This one should be ready by January.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, followed giving Tara Carlton credit for helping get the carnival to come to the fair this year. She said there’s no guarantee it’ll be here next year as a town in Texas is trying to get it during the same week. The city and county, she added, stepped up and got everything ready at the fairgrounds.

In talking about the sidewalk project, Godwin said the city should get the bid performance bond soon and once this happens the mayor can sign the contract to get it started. Once the bond is approved, she added, the contractor should start, and this is a good time of year as it’s dry.

On the topic of the park grants, she said Prescott made the first cut and she’ll have to go to Jacksonville to appear before the directors of the State Parks and Recreation Department. She said the city should know by December if it’ll be receiving a grant or not.

Jerry Eslick appeared before the panel during the citizens communication part of the meeting. He read a statute dealing with oppressing the rights of others, adding there’s a fine and jail time possible for violations. On July 12, he continued, he was paying his utility bill when Oliver reportedly said something to him and “drove the point” by staring and glaring at him. Eslick looked up the statute and told the council everyone should have to follow the law.

Det. Joey Grayson, with the Prescott Police Department, said the statute Eslick read was a federal law and has to be enforced by federal law enforcement agencies as local, county and state agencies have no authority where it’s concerned and can’t enforce it. He added, it also takes a federal court and federal judge to handle.

Curry reminded the council his monthly feed will be Saturday at his outreach center.

Oliver said for the first time ever, Prescott has three people on the executive council of the Arkansas Municipal League – Austin, Patricia Roberts and Satarra Williams.