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Up to $6.3 million from the state will connect about 150 people to Dumas' water and sewer systems.

That's about $42,000 per customer, but it's the most cost-effective way to integrate the communities of Pickens and Winchester to public water and wastewater systems, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission Deputy Director Ryan Benefield told the commission's board Wednesday at its September meeting.

The commission will send $3,975,000 to Dumas for the sewer project and $2,320,000 for drinking water. Of that, $1,895,000 will come in the form of loans. The rest, $4.4 million, will be loans with principal forgiveness, meaning the loans won't need to be paid back.

Building a new treatment plant would have made the cost of the sewer project about $4.9 million, and the communities would have had to fund operation and maintenance of the plant, Benefield said.

Being such small communities, Pickens and Winchester couldn't have afforded building or operating their own treatment plant, Benefield said. Connecting the communities to Dumas is an example of the commission's push toward "regionalism," which connects small communities into more fiscally sustainable larger systems.

Commissioner Fred Fowlkes pointed out the cost per customer.

"This is the most viable cost alternative for the system," Benefield said.

Lajune Winfrey, who moved to Winchester in 2010, said she has been waiting for sewer service. Like her neighbors, she has a septic tank now, which she doesn't like.

Winfrey, 79, attended Wednesday's meeting with her sister and her sister's husband, Mayor General Alexander.

"We want the project," Winfrey said. "We've been waiting to get it for I don't know how long."

"It'd mean a whole lot to me," she added.

The commission's board approved issuing up to $14.3 million in loans and grants Wednesday, including a $2.4 million loan and a $1.7 million loan in principal forgiveness to the Gillham Lake Regional Water Association for repairing and expanding its water treatment plant. The commission approved another $9,121,751 in general obligation bonds for the Bayou Meto Irrigation District and de-obligating a loan of up to $515,000 to the town of Garland in Miller County that had been intended to improve the town's levee but sat unused.

Commissioners approved a loan of up to $3,605,000 to Osceola for expansion and improvement of its sewer plant to serve Big River Steel; a loan of up to $193,125 and a grant of up to $64,375 to Mount Sherman Water Association in Newton County for improvements to its drinking water system; an increase in a loan to Cotter-Gassville Joint Sewer Commission of up to $38,110 for replacement and regrading of sewer lines; and a grant of up to $12,360 to Wright-Pastoria Water Association in Jefferson County for filters to remove iron from the drinking water.

State Desk on 09/21/2017

Print Headline: $6.3M project will connect two communities to Dumas water, sewer systems

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