The City of Hamburg was recently awarded a grant for $1.2 million to upgrade and refurbish the city’s water system.

Bill Gaught, an engineer in El Dorado, wrote for the grant and said that it was originally to repaint the water tanks and install new lighting.

“They came back with considerably more than I expected,” Gaught said.

The project was estimated at $1.8 million and the city was awarded a $1.2 million grant and given the opportunity to take out a 2 percent loan, which would completely cover the project.

“Getting grants sometimes is difficult and it’s a 2 percent loan for 40 years, so it’s a pretty small payment,” Gaught said.

Mayor Dane Weindorf asked his son, Blake Weindorf, who is a water engineer in central Arkansas with environmental certifications, to discuss the importance of the project. The mayor said Blake is chairman of the Arkansas Waterworks and Arkansas Water Environmental Associations.

“I hate to just sit up here and brag on my son, but as you can see from his credentials he is well qualified to talk to you about this,” Mayor Weindorf said.

Blake Weindorf said the need for drinking water is something that people take for granted. A water bill is significantly less than an electric bill or cell phone bill and water is an absolute necessity.  

“None of us can live without drinking water,” he said.

Blake told the council that it is important for cities to make sure their water systems are managed well because other cities in Arkansas have been in situations where they were forced to sell out to a private company.

“You take Pine Bluff for example, they were bought out by a private company to bail out the utility only to turn around five to 10 years later to see a 50 percent rate increase,” he said.

Once the private companies take over, the city has no control over the water distribution.

The city is required to paint the tanks and the other projects the grant and loan will cover would just be bonuses to the city.

Gaught said it was going to cost the city well over $600,000 to paint the tanks and so that it would be a “no brainer.”

“You’re going to have to paint the tanks regardless if you accept this money or not, you can paint the tanks out of your own pocket or you can accept this money and use part of it to paint the tanks, it’s pretty much a no brainer,” Gaught said.

The mayor said he needed the council’s vote of confidence to move forward with the project.

Councilman Mike Sanderlin said he was concerned about voting on a project without seeing a breakdown of where the money is going.

“There’s going to be a lot of questions that the public is going to be asking about and we need to get that lined out,” Sanderlin said.

The grant and loan offered to the city of Hamburg would cover various water projects for the city. The mayor said that he would provide a list of those projects to the local news media and to the council members. That list cited roughly $751,000 for construction and water line extensions, $136,000 for construction costs to repair Norman Street Park, $533,000 for construction for other tanks, $35,000 to rehabilitate wells one and three, and $437,000 for “other estimated expenses.”

The council voted to allow Gaught to start accepting bids on the project, though some of the council members were concerned about approving it without more information.

The mayor said that the vote was not a final approval of the project, but more of a vote of confidence that the city was ready to move forward with the grant process.

In other news:

• The city approved the school resource officer agreement between the school and the city. The school district will pay half of the SRO’s salary and benefits.

• The council approved an agreement between the county government and city for the county to provide dispatching services.

The city will pay $4,000 a month for a total of $48,000 per year for dispatch services.

• EMT classes will be offered at the Hamburg fire station. The mayor said those who complete the 13 week class will be licensed EMTs. Those interested in those classes may contact City Hall at 870-853-5300.

• Weindorf said census workers are needed for the 2020 census as well as committee members for a census committee.

Those who want more information should contact City Hall.

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