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Rural Decatur residents get good news on water project

by Michael Eckels | August 2, 2022 at 7:50 a.m.

DECATUR -- It has been a long road for Mayor Bob Tharp, city council members, and rural residents, but finally the long-awaited Western Benton County Water Project got the green light to proceed with the $3 million project that will provide some rural residents with a clean source of water.

Tharp, attending the Benton County Quorum Court meeting in Bentonville on July 28, received the long-awaited news that the Benton County Quorum Court approved the city's request for funds to pay for the water project.

In a press release dated July 29 from Melody Kwok, Benton County communications director, "The Benton County Quorum Court awarded $2,000,000 of American Rescue Plan funds to the city of Decatur for the Western Benton County Water Project. The city of Decatur will use these funds, along with additional funds that have been secured for the completion of the project. Benton County received $54 million from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan. Justices of the peace have appropriated these funds to various county projects, local nonprofits, and cities for the purpose of improving the quality of life of residents."

Shortly after taking office in 2015, Tharp began receiving requests from two rural Decatur residents seeking water from the city. Since this project was in Benton County and not within the city limits, the cost to the city was more than the revenue

the water department would receive.

For five years, officials with the city of Decatur have been trying to get water to rural customers in Benton County who live within the Decatur Water District. With the help of city grant writer Cassie Elliott, they applied for several grants which ultimately were denied.

Then in 2020, the nation was gripped by the covid-19 pandemic. Most of the country was shut down due to quarantine protocol to curb the spread of the virus. The following year, when the country began reopening, the federal government came up with a plan to jump-start the economy.

According to the U. S. Department of Treasury: "The Coronavirus State and Local Rescue Fiscal Recovery Funds provide a substantial infusion of resources to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address its economic fallout and lay the foundation for a strong equitable recovery" (July 29 Benton County Awarded American Rescue Plans funds news release).

During the Feb. 17 meeting of the American Rescue Plan Committee at the Benton County Courthouse in Bentonville, Tharp presented the city's Decatur West Water Main Extension plan. In that plan, Tharp wrote, "Rural water extensions were initially installed to assist with providing water for Peterson Industries to supply poultry houses. As the water main was installed, people began to move into these areas where water had become available. Extensions started for poultry but became a growth accelerant for Benton County."

The city of Decatur initially asked for $3 million, the total cost of the project, but went back to the court to request $2 million after the city received $1 million from another source.

"This generous donation from the Quorum Court will be used to expand current water lines from main lines in the county that Decatur has had in place for years. The purpose will be to serve houses that need water desperately that are currently using purchased water, well water that is sulfur-ridden, or spring water, in some cases. The project will serve approximately 40 residents on the outer western side of Benton County."

"In August 2021, Benton County requested organizations apply for economic recovery assistance as part of the American Rescue Plan. The County received 57 applications, including the proposal from the city of Decatur. Quorum court members based funding approval on the established federal criteria for ASP projects and considered whether the proposal would have a positive impact on the Benton County community" (July 29 Benton County Awarded American Rescue Plans funds news release).

It will take about 18 months before rural water users in the Decatur area will begin to hook up to the city's water system.

Print Headline: Rural Decatur residents get good news on water project

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