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Authority OK'd for $55M loan

Plan is to add Benton County sewage treatment capacity by Doug Thompson | March 19, 2021 at 3:39 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- The state has approved a $55 million loan to the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority in Benton County.

The loan will pay to double the regional wastewater treatment facility's capacity and replace a faulty pipeline, authority's board chairman George Spence of Bentonville said Thursday. The state Department of Agriculture announced the low-interest loan Thursday.

The plant expansion will take three years, according to estimates, from the time design work is complete, Spence said. The design work is underway, he said. The expanded plant will be able to process 7.2 million gallons a day, up from about 3.6 million now.

The plant's original design anticipated a need to expand to 5.4 million gallons a day, but growth was faster than expected, Spence said. The original plant was finished in 2010. Almost all of the growth requiring the expansion is from Bentonville, he said.

The original pipeline from Bentonville has had problems since shortly after installation and will be replaced, Spence said. The plant has another line leading to it that stretches to Tontitown. Elm Springs joined the system most recently, and Cave Springs is now linking up. Springdale and Rogers are also partners in the authority's plant and reserve the right to tie on in the future.

The loan's terms grant 30 years to repay the money and a 1.5% rate of interest, which includes processing costs, Spence said.

In a related issue, Bentonville Mayor Stephanie Orman spoke to the board, which met Thursday. The mayor called a strategic plan for the regional utility that, so far, has had only one large city and two smaller ones link up to it. She would like Rogers and Springdale to give tentative dates for when they plan to link to the system. Spence said the board members, which represent the member cities, will talk to their mayors before the next board meeting in April.

Board member Chris Weiser of Springdale reminded the board and the mayor that the system has operated without an executive director since 2012. Formulating long-term strategies to encourage more cities to tie on to the system was part of what an executive director would do, he said. Other board members suggested that a consultant rather than a full-time director might fill that role.

In Washington County, Greenland will receive two loans from the state, one for $2.2 million to replace and expand a lift station, which pumps wastewater up from lower levels, and a $1.6 million loan to replace a force main, which is a sewer line that is under pressure. Greenland is not a member of the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority, and the loans are not related to the Benton County loan.

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