Lawmakers Study Ripple Effects of City Water Fights

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas lawmakers are examining the ripple effects of water fights across the state. 

A new task force is diving into the operations of the state's 350 water providers to see how they can better serve their three million customers. 

"That as many people as possible are provided with water," Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, told the Water Provider Legislative Task Force Thursday. 

The panel, comprised of legislators and utility experts, are inviting the players of different service area conflicts to their meetings. The first: a Jacksonville water tower on annexed Sherwood property.

"We waived any fees, we allowed them to build their water tower in our city limits, we zoned it at no cost," Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young told the task force. "We worked with them to do it and now when we've asked for water, they told us, 'Oh, it's not in our city limits. You're not going to get any.'" 

Mayor Young said that will only change if she de-annexes the land, which she won't do.

The effects have trickled down to a hopeful developer. 

"Jacksonville denied us access," Greg Heslep told the panel. "As long as it's in the city of Sherwood that they would not provide water and sewer."

Heslep said a lawsuit between the two cities to decide who will service the annexed area has postponed his project for about two years. 

Sen. Clark also invited the Jacksonville mayor and the general manager of Jacksonville Water Works to the meeting, but they didn't show. 

"I really wish that Jacksonville would have been here," Dale Kimbrow with Central Arkansas Water told the task force. 

Before the meeting, the general manager told us on the phone he was advised not to go amid the lawsuit. We have yet to hear back from the city attorney who gave him that order.

"It is the city that is hindering the utility," Kimbrow said. "I don't believe this is Jacksonville Water saying, 'We're not going to serve.'"

"This is just the first of many, many different problems that we're going to encounter and look at," Clark said. 

Sen. Clark asked the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to come back with recommendations in the next month or so, whether that be new legislation or changes in policy.

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