Emergency water system fix spending ratified in Prescott City Council meeting Tuesday

Prescott Water and Sewer Superintendent Perry Nelson (center left) presents information to the Prescott City Council on what he called a “long-term temporary fix” to the city’s water intake system in the Little Missouri River.

At the regular September meeting of the Prescott City Council Monday night, which took place at the town’s Senior Center, Water and Sewer Superintendent Perry Nelson explained that an emergency measure had to be taken to keep the city of Prescott from running out of water. SWARK.Today filmed the meeting, and it is available to see in its entirety.

The problem is that the Little Missouri River keeps blowing sand into the Prescott Water and Light Company’s intake pipe. On several past occasions, pumping capacity at the plant dwindled to nothing for about two weeks. On one occasion, Nelson said, the pipe has had to be removed from a pile of sand accumulating on the river’s bottom and cleaned.

As the company was about to install a fitting to the end of the intake pipe, and sent divers down “it became obvious it would not solve the problem,” Nelson said. So during a consultation with the firm A.L. Franks Engineers, it was decided to extend the intake pipe to the middle of the river, where the water contains less sand.

Nelson called this a “long-term, temporary fix” that would “buy us time” before a bigger project and a permanent solution can be undertaken. The pipe extension project’s cost was $163,577.40, and would be covered by part of about $300,000 in federal funds from the American Rescue Act of 2021, which permits the spending of amounts received by cities on water infrastructure needs.

In answer to a question from Council member Ivory Curry regarding the source of the sand, Nelson said it was a sandbar up river whose movement over the past five years can be watched in satellite images taken during that period. Nelson answered another query from the council about costs for short-term fixes over the past three years. He said so far the sand issue had cost $130,000 before the pipe extension project.

Nelson explained that the project was completed and paid for on an emergency basis, meaning there was no bid process and he received permission from Mayor Terry Oliver to proceed without the city council’s approval. Nelson said there was no time for a bidding process before Prescott would have run out of water. Mayor Oliver said this was so and added that, considering the dwindling supply of stored water and supply chain problems that have affected project parts, “we had one day to decide.”

City Attorney Glenn Vasser said the council needed to pass a motion to ratify on an emergency basis the spending to conform with legal requirements. They did so unanimously.

After the motion passed, Council member Curry asked Nelson what the cost of a permanent solution would be. Nelson said the amount as he understood it was about $3 million.

In other business, the meeting included the approval of minutes of the August meeting, approval of the August 2022 financial report and reports from Jamie Hillery, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and Mary Godwin, the county’s Economic Development Director.

Jamie Hillery said that the Nevada County Fair came off well, but as of now she is seeing a lack of registrations to participate in activities during the Fall Festival which would take place October 8 and include a 5K run, waterball tournament, basketball shootout and beauty pageant. Unless those numbers come up, those activities may have to be cancelled, she said. She also said the Chamber’s biannual community directory is being worked on.

Mary Godwin also reported the County Fair had gone well and reported the improved driveability of the streets that had been overlayed recently. The sidewalk project is in the stage of waiting for a bid performance bond to be provided to Mayor Oliver for review, which should take place this week. Once he signs, the city will be given a date for starting the project. A parks grant application is its review process with the possibility of a presentation being called for by the state Department of Tourism board in October should the application make the first cut. Then in December the word comes whether the grant application has been successful.

Mayor Oliver congratulated three council members on their being named to the Arkansas Municipal League’s executive council. These are Howard Austin, Patricia Roberts and Satarra Willams.

In Citizens Communications, Jerry Eslick, who complained about receiving a hostile glare from Mayor Terry Oliver during a discussion of an electric bill July 12, read 18 USC Subsection 241, a federal law requiring that those who punish a citizen’s exercise of civil rights be punished with a $10,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison. After Eslick read the law, he walked out. In his absence Prescott Detective Joey Grayson said the law could only be enforced by federal authorities.

Mayor Oliver congratulated three council members on their being named to the Arkansas Municipal League’s executive council. These are Howard Austin, Patricia Roberts and Satarra Willams. Oliver said he could not remember another time when three council members from Prescott were on the state’s executive council. “We’re proud of you all for your service,” he said.

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