A Crossett sewer commissioner says it’s important that residents understand what’s on the upcoming ballot in order to prevent sewer rates from going up.

Crossett Sewer Commissioner Claude Spainhour said there are two different ways citizens can pay for the planned sewer project east of Crossett. They will be given a choice at the polls next month on how the project will be paid for. 

The business area around the intersection of Arkansas 133 and Unity Road has reportedly outgrown the original sewer system and the city has no choice but to upgrade it. The upgrade is projected to cost approximately $7 million dollars. 

“This project is so urgent that it is has to happen,” Spainhour said. “It’s not a question of whether or not the project will happen; the city is moving forward with the project.” 

Voters will be given the option next month to approve a half-cent sales tax with a sunset clause to pay for the project. If the tax election is not successful then the city will raise sewer rates in order to pay for the project. Spainhour said that the sewer rates would nearly triple to cover the cost of the project.

“If the tax is approved, that means that the 10,000 to 12,000 people who shop in our trade area will contribute to the project; if not, the cost will be divided between our 2,700 sewer customers,” Spainhour said.

According to Spainhour the project is a positive thing for not only the sewer customers, but for everyone in the trade area because it will open up the industrial park for expansion and allow for more businesses east of town.

The individual lift stations that are currently in use by the businesses in the area all have to be pumped to the Industrial Park, which is at maximum capacity. The sewer commission paid $140,000 in 2013 to draw up what a well-designed sewer system in that area would look like and how much it would cost. 

 Not only will the upgrade allow for expansion, but it will also make the current system more economical by reducing operating cost and stabilizing the system as a whole, it was reported.

Crossett City Councilwoman Crystal Marshall said that the city council agreed to the project because they believe it is necessary, not only to get the current system in working order, but also to make the City of Crossett attractive to industry.

“We believe in Crossett’s growth potential and we want to be viewed as a work ready community, so in my opinion a vote ‘yes’ is a vote ‘yes for Crossett,’” Marshall said. 

Spainhour said that without the project the potential to expand the industrial park is not optional. 

“With so many jobs leaving town, we don’t want to be hampered in that way,” he said. 

Another thing Spainhour said is important for voters to consider is that if the tax isn’t passed and sewer rates must be raised to cover the cost, sewer customers will at the mercy of the bond company.

Spainhour said the exact rate increase will be out of the city’s hands, but he is estimating to be approximately times the current amount if not more. 

Additionally, a sewer rate increase means that there is not a chance of paying off the bond early.

If a tax is passed, Spainhour said, there is potential to get the bond paid off in 10 or 12 years, but if sewer rates are raised to cover the project there is no chance of paying it off before the 20 years is up. 

Spainhour said he also believes that raising the sewer rates for the 2,700 sewer customers would be imminently unfair because their individual benefit will not increase. Therefore he supports the half-cent sales tax over the sewer rate increase. 

“This upgrade will benefit the entire trade area,” Spainhour said. 

The election is scheduled for May, but in light of the new health department guidelines concerning the COVID-19 virus, the county clerk’s office has already begun sending out absentee ballots for those who would like to participate in that way. 

Those with questions on exactly how the absentee ballots will work should contact Ashley County Clerk Christie Martin.  

The clerk’s office can be reached at 870-853-2020.

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