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Water merger is proposed

Alderman and former mayor Burch Johnson once again called for a merger between Maumelle Water Management and the city during Monday night’s City Council meeting and the council approved his laid back plan to accomplish that merger in a friendly fashion.

Johnson noted that the Maumelle Suburban Improvement District No. 500 was formed more to create Maumelle than to supply water.

In fact, since the city did not exist at the time, the district was used to sell bonds to build Maumelle’s infrastructure which included parks, ball fields, municipal buildings and other projects as well as water and sewer.

Johnson said MWM’s inability to expand has cost the city several areas of interested annexation because they couldn’t add water or sewer service to the area. Those areas were lost to Central Arkansas Water, he said.

The city of Maumelle can borrow money at a cheaper rate than MWM, Johnson said.

He said MWM didn’t “operate under the free enterprise or democratic government system that our nation was founded on, but under a state law allowing for three board members, who elect their replacements.”

Johnson challenged MWM’s new customer advisory council to come up with a better way than the present arrangement.

He urged state laws governing MWM to be changed and praised MWM’s three-person board for a “great job over the years” but said, “It is time to move forward.”

Johnson suggested those changes can be made through cooperation between MWM and the city offering two council members to sit down with two water commissioners to carve out a new relationship.

Alderman Steve Mosley, co-sponsor of Johnson’s resolution, said it was “well past the time for a solution [to MWM’s issues] to be done.”

With $7 million being spent annually by MWM, Mosley said that’s a “lot not to be accountable.”

Johnson and others implored council members and the public to “tone down the antagonism.”

“Let’s work past the personalities. Maumelle deserves better,” Johnson said.

Alderman Jan Hogue said the two representatives the city currently that meets with MWM commissioners have yet to report back to the council even once about MWM.

Several council members said if MWM has another summer like last year it wouldn’t survive.

Johnson said while MWM has a well capacity of 7.2 million gallons of water a day, it didn’t have the equipment to handle that much. Another summer with a need of 6.7 million gallons of water per day will tax a system averaging 1.9 million gallons a day but Johnson said the city has got to be “real careful and not throw bricks.”

He said we should start with forgetting what happened last summer by moving forward.

Alderman Preston Lewis said MWM had a huge public relations problem. He said the public didn’t know what they’re getting from MWM.

Lewis said MWM’s attitude of “we know more than you do. That’s not going to cut it.”

Mayor Mike Watson said an engineering study MWM is doing right now should resolve several of the issues discussed.

One area the study is exploring is whether it’s even feasible for Central Arkansas Water to provide more water to MWM.

City attorney JaNan Davis said there are a lot of legal issues involved not the least of which is deciding who the members of MWM are.

The resolution passed unanimously.

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