Crossett still has no funding plan for the East Crossett sewer project, a proposal that is estimated to cost approximately $7 million dollars.
Without the sewer upgrade, officials say the city could lose potential industries.
Crossett has been working since 2015 to find a solution to needed upgrades to the sewer system east of town around the industrial park, Ashley County Medical Center and new hotel. The sewer upgrades are not only important for the current businesses in the area, but are also a deal breaker for industry moving into the area.
Claude Spainhour with the Crossett Sewer Commission told the Crossett City Council at Monday’s meeting that companies considering the area have immediately rejected it once they learn the current waste water capacity of the area.
Spainhour has been working closely with the project as he is both on the sewer commission and chairman of the committee the mayor appointed in 2017 to explore funding options for the project. In early 2018, the council decided that the city should explore grant options first, prompting the appointed committee to take leave with plans to reconvene to discuss how to fund what the grants would not cover should the city be awarded any grant funding.
Spainhour told the council Monday night that he was concerned about the status of the grant applications and as far as he knew, none have been applied for.
“All of 2018 is gone and — as of this morning, I checked — no grants have been applied for,” Spainhour said.
Crossett Economic Development Executive Director Mike Smith said his office was working with Spainhour and the city to apply for the grants and that the city had submitted pre-applications, putting them in step two of the process for an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant of $2 million dollars.
Smith said the city’s pre-application was approved and that the city was invited late last summer to apply for the $2 million dollar grant.
“Applying for $2 million takes time and research to get correct, and it’s not something you can do in a month’s time,” Smith said.
Councilwoman Lynn Rodgers said that she had spoken with Patricia Hargrove with Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District about applying for loans to fund the project.
The council discussed asking for $5 million in loans, but Smith suggested applying for the entire $7 million because grant funding was not certain.
“We are asking for $2 million, that doesn’t mean we will get $2 million,” Smith said.
Spainhour said that one reason the EDA grant hadn’t been submitted is because the city was waiting on an engineering firm to answer certain questions.
Spainhour said that when he learned what the questions were, he realized they could be answered by himself and other city employees.
“We were able to get two of the answers this afternoon, and the third is going to require a little more research,” Spainhour said.
One of the city sewer employees was assigned to collect the needed data and report back to Spainhour with the answer.
Rodgers suggested that Smith have the grant writer report regularly to the council and to Spainhour’s committee with updates so that everyone could be on the same page with the process.
Smith said that he expected the EDA application to be submitted within the next two to three weeks.
In addition, Smith said that a grant had recently been submitted for $250,000 to Delta Regional Authority.