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Lincoln, Prairie Grove Water Rates Go Up

ACTION FOLLOWS TWO TON RATE INCREASE by Lynn Kutter | January 5, 2022 at 10:34 a.m.

LINCOLN’S NEW RATES

(per thousand gallons)

City Rate 

Up to 1,000 gallons, $36.40

1,001-10,000 gallons, $10.54

10,001-30,000 gallons, $9.79

30,001-100,000 gallons, $8.69

100,001 to 200,000 gallons, $7.98

Over 200,000 gallons, $7.03

Country Water Rate

Up to 1,000 gallons, $46.04

1,001-10,000 gallons, $11.42

10,001-30,000, $10.95

30,001-100,000 gallons, $9.38

100,001 to 200,000 gallons, $8.52

Over 200,000 gallons, $8.00

Rural West and SE Loop Rate

Up to 1,000 gallons, $59.02

1,001-10,000 gallons, $11.42

10,001-30,000, $10.95

30,001-100,000 gallons, $9.38

100,001 to 200,000 gallons, $8.52

Over 200,000 gallons, $8.00

Large User/Agricultural

Up to 1,000 gallons, $59.02

1,001-200,000 gallons, $6.57

Over 200,000 gallons, $5.21

Water customers with the cities of Prairie Grove and Lincoln will see their rates increase in 2022 as the result of a rate increase approved in October by the Benton-Washington County Regional Water Authority.

The authority's board of directors approved a 15% increase, which took effect Jan. 1, to finance $50 million in improvements, according to archives with the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The authority has a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw water from Beaver Lake.

The system provides water service to both Lincoln and Prairie Grove, as well as other cities in Northwest Arkansas.

Prairie Grove Water Rates

Water rates for city of Prairie Grove customers will only slightly increase because the city produces about 35% of its water from Prairie Grove Lake.

Larry Oelrich, city administrative assistant, said Prairie Grove's cost from the authority, commonly called Two Ton, is going up 36 cents per gallon.

The city can absorb some of the increase because it does not get all of its water from Two Ton, Oelrich said. Of the 36 cents, the city is passing on 23 cents per gallon to Prairie Grove water customers, Oelrich said.

"We didn't feel we should pass on the full 36 cents," Chuck Wiley, public works director, said last week.

Prairie Grove City Council approved an ordinance to amend water rates at its Dec. 20 meeting.

The rate for city customers, effective Jan. 1, 2022, will be $11.44 for the first 1,000 gallons and then $7.21 per 1,000 gallons after that. For rural and NW rural customers, the rate will be $30.37 for the first 1,000 gallons and then $7.21 per 1,000 gallons after that.

Oelrich said the increase will be less than $1 per month for the average user of 4,500 gallons of water per month.

Mayor Sonny Hudson pointed out, "This is to cover costs that are being put on us."

Prairie Grove water customers already were set for a rate increase on Jan. 1, 2022, because of an ordinance approved by the city council in November 2020, for small incremental rate increases over a four-year period through January 2024.

Taking into account both increases, Oelrich said Prairie Grove water customers will see an increase of 30 cents per gallon across the board for 2022.

Lincoln Water Rates

Lincoln City Council approved an ordinance to increase water rates at its Dec. 21 meeting.

Mayor Doug Hutchens noted that the increase from Two Ton is what's "driving" Lincoln's water rate increase.

"We've had just an overall increase in costs for components, materials, of course, labor," Hutchens said at the council meeting. "Every part of the business has gone up just like every other business has in the last two years significantly. As a water department and public service, we do have to remain solvent."

Hutchens said the increase will have a small impact on each customer's bill and will allow the city to fund another water employee and be able to pay its bills to Two Ton.

"We did the math on this pretty tight," Hutchens said, adding the city plans to conduct a water rate analysis in 2022.

Council member Terry Bryson said the monthly increase will be $5.50 for a city customer who uses 2,000 gallons per month and $7.50 for a customer who uses 3,000 gallons per month.

Council member Michelle Davis said she was not happy the rates were going up but noted "there are things we have to do."

Council member David McBride said, "I don't think any of us want to see the water rate go up. We know it hurts the seniors and those, for lack of better words, the poorest among us, but we have to stay afloat. We understand the the climate we're in now, everything is going up. I think everybody here agrees with me. None of us want to see a raise."

Rhonda Hulse, city business manager, said she hopes people will realize rates are going up because of the increase from Two Ton.

"It should be relatively factual why we are having to raise it," Hulse told council members.

The ordinance also says that the city has obligated itself to revenue bonds for the new water tank and is required by the terms of the bonds to maintain water rates or risk default.

According to the ordinance, the city water rate will increase from $31.40 to be $36.40 for the first 1,000 gallons, with minimal increases for usage above that. The country water rate will be $46.04 for the first 1,000 gallons. The rural west and SE loop rate will be $59.02 for the first 1,000 gallons and the minimum rate for large user/agricultural will be $59.02 for up to 1,000 gallons.

For each category of customers, rates are going up by $1 for subsequent usage.

Hulse said the city will receive its first bill with Two Ton's rate increase at the end of January. The city water bills due in February will have the new rates on them.

Two Ton

Two Ton's rate increased from $2.34 per 1,000 gallons to $2.70 per 1,000 gallons on Jan. 1 for its customers, which include Bella Vista, Centerton, Gentry, Gravette, Pea Ridge and Washington Water Authority.

Officials said the system needs to expand to increase capacity and provide for expected growth in Benton and Washington counties. The regional water authority will use revenue from the rate increase to add a new pumping station, a new line and increase water storage.

Washington Water Authority, which serves part of western Washington County, sent out notices to its customers on Nov. 19, 2021, saying its rates would increase to offset the cost of the rate increase from Benton Washington Regional Water Authority.

Washington Water Authority's rates increased to $32.50 for the first 1,000 gallons of water, and to $9.25 per 1,000 gallons usage on a pro rata basis, for a standard residential meter, according to the notice. The new rate will be effective on the water bills mailed at the end of January.

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