Jason Carter with the Arkansas Municipal Power Association spoke to council about net metering. He discussed energy conservation, climate change, customer rights and explained ways to help customers more efficiently. Carter presented two options citizens have to lower their electric costs; one is to reduce the amount of energy they use through energy efficiency and the other is to generate power. Net metering will tie these together, reducing the amount of energy customers are using, but not the energy efficiency, because they will going to generate their own electricity using solar power.
Since 2001, customers across the state have had the right to net meter, but no one has done it because it has been very expensive to put in. Solar power is now affordable, so people are installing it all over the Arkansas. Carter stated that it not only makes sense from a green perspective, but it makes sense from an economic perspective. Carter encouraged the counsel to create their own rules, tailored to their community as opposed to following the rules of investor owned utilities and cooperatives. He shared with them the ordinances and restrictions that are mandated by law concerning residential and non residential structures and talked about limitations on authority and the SWEPCO contract. Carter stated that the SWEPCO contract is a significant, long lasting contract with a pricing format that is challenging for the community. Although reasonable efforts have been made to try to resolve that challenge, it that hasn’t always worked favorably for the city and stated that they are dealing with the contract as it reads.
Carter shared that this route is not a revenue driver for the city and that the primary approach with solar power is to give citizens the opportunity to save money without the city being harmed in the process. Carter went on to explain the logistics of how solar power would work for the Prescott community.
Jamie Hillary gave a brief update on the upcoming chamber banquet that has been postponed, as well as the fall festival. Hillary stated that she thought it was important to have both events for the community and that several ideas were being tossed around on how to go about making sure the traditions continued this year. She also addressed ribbon cuttings that have been postponed and the application for the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant, a grant that comes up each year in the amount of $25,000.
An ordinance to regulate speed on the city street adjacent to the Travel Center of America Truck Stop was presented to the Council. Due to the heavy volume of trucks entering and departing from the Travel Center, the city is regularly resurfacing the street and the City’s Engineer has indicated that lowering the speed limit will lessen the frequency of wear and tear, thus lessening city expenses. A motion was made to accept the ordinance and the council voted to approve.
Perry Nelson, superintendent of the Prescott Water and Sewer Department addressed the council about the project at the water department, saying they had replaced the transmission line that transfers the water from Little Missouri River to the water treatment plant in town and also out to Firestone. The project, which began in 2018 with plans and funding approved from the city and the ANRC, was for the installation of 34,500 feet of 16 inch piping to replace pipe installed in 1964. In December 2018 the PVC pipe, C900 arrived and they were able to begin construction in January of 2019.
During this time, there was a problem with the existing pipeline under a creek crossing. Due to time restraints, they had to utilize the construction company contracted to put in the new lines, as well as some the materials that were already on hand to fix a leak under the creek. During that time, there was an existing vault with an air relief valve that was bumped, which caused a geyser of water to erupt. This was repaired and in February of 2019 they came back and put in a new line underneath the creek. Nelson stated that the piping underneath the creeks and critical crossings is ductile iron pipe because it is more durable and will hold up better in adverse conditions. The new line was flushed and completed in May of 2019, but in October, a transfer line had to be replaced. A hole in a pipe at the railroad track was discovered and repaired in January of this year and by May of 2020, everything was in place, connections were completed to tie the new line to the water plant off Highway 19. Pipe was tied in to the Firestone line and the new pipeline was connected to the river and in to town.
In late May, a new problem was found at the river. Nelson stated that they discovered sand was moving in around that pipe and they made contact with the engineers to begin working on a project to take care of that issue. They contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for information on what they would be allowed to do on that river. Then, they had to find funding through emergency clauses and other places. The rainy season began and the river came up soon after this problem was discovered, but now the river has gone down and this project needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. Permits to work at the river have been acquired, the electric department has been removing trees from the area and the company contracted to clean the sand out from around the intake structure has been contacted.
Nelson requested permission to begin the repairs on this project, stating that estimated costs for this project would be around $100,000 – $125,000. He stated that there are no grants available for this, nor does it qualify for the State’s revolving loan program. Nelson said that he has found a company that could remove the sand within 10 days and for around $100,000, possibly less. He said he knows funds are limited, but this is an issue that must be repaired as soon as possible or there will not be any water. He also stated that this would only be a temporary fix, a more permanent fix would be to put the pipe in a different place in the river or use a different intake.
A motion was made to proceed and the council voted to repair the issue in the amount of $100,000.