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Water rate increase again finds no support

The Clinton City Council held a special meeting last week to re-address two topics from its week-earlier regular meeting, but there was no change in the outcome.

The council heard from Van Buren County Water Association’s Jim Kirkendoll at its Feb. 25 special meeting. He renewed his plea not to raise rates, saying many of the customers simply could not absorb a 2 percent increase.

“That’s a big chunk for folks on fixed incomes,” Kirkendoll said. He asked that water rates not be raised for Van Buren County until the Clinton Water System customers are paying as much as others for their water.

Van Buren County water customers pay a minimum bill of $18; the association pays $3.31/1,000 gallons.

Councilwoman Wendy Russ asked why Van Buren County water cost more.

Kirkendoll said the 1,360 customer paid for more than 100 miles of pipeline, pumps and tanks. “There is a lot of expense after we buy water.” He said the association is a “break-even business.”

Clinton Mayor Roger Rorie pounced on those words. “We’re striving to be a break-even company,” he said. He said that since the Pilgrim’s Pride plant went out of business in 2008 it has been a struggle.

The city is getting into more financial trouble every year for not raising water rates, he said.

Water department manager Isaac Keeling said the 2 percent increase would cost Van Buren County only $5,247 a year. He said Van Buren County’s biggest cost was in its water leaks.

No council member made a motion in support of the ordinance.

“I challenge you to figure out what you’re going to do in the future,” Rorie said.

Also at the meeting, Rorie prodded the council to make some kind of decision about city facilities. He said the current Water Department building leaks and is badly in need of repairs. He said he has brought to the council’s attention four properties as possibilities for a new location. The most current one is the former quarters for Standridge Insurance, which is owned by Steve Bone.

Rorie asked each councilor what they wanted to do.

“I’m for the building over there,” said Councilwoman Nina Bonds. She said she also was for raising water rates, “but nobody else seems to be.”

But Councilman Sam Ward voiced another opinion. “I’d hate to see us leave downtown.”

Bonds responded that she would wants “us to stay downtown, too, but these buildings are old. What are we going to do?”

Rorie told the council that if it did nothing he was going to declare an emergency and begin work on the Water Department building.

“Get lots of bids,” Russ said.

Rorie said if he declared an emergency that wouldn’t be necessary.

The council then went into executive session and came out to announce they had restructured a couple of jobs of current employees and they would be receiving $20 per week raises.

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