BY VERSHAL HOGAN
The City of Crossett has been approved for nearly $1 million in short-term financing for the East Crossett Sewer Project.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Division approved the loan of $939,365 for the planning, design and acquisition of easements in connection with the project.
Mayor Crystal Marshall said that the funds could be repaid with the up-to $7 million revenue bond voters approved in May 2020.
“Because this is a revenue bond, we will have to hold a public hearing,” Marshall said. “I am waiting for legal counsel in Little Rock to give us the go ahead.”
Bill Spivey of law firm Wright, Lindsey and Jennings is working as the city’s bond attorney for the project. Marshall said once the appropriate wording has been cleared for the ordinance the city will have to adopt to receive the funds, the city council will host a public hearing.
Following the public hearing, the council will have the opportunity to adopt or reject the ordinance. If it is adopted, residents will have 30 days to gather signatures and call a vote on the matter if they have any objections to it. If there are no objections filed within the 30-day period, the ordinance will pass into law and the city will receive the loan.
The need for the temporary funding comes as the city finds itself in a temporary holding pattern for the sewer project. Because the sewer upgrade — which the NRD said will benefit 3,050 customers — is funded by a revenue bond, the revenue can’t be accessed to pay the bond until work has started on the project. Work cannot start on the project until all of the necessary easements are acquired — a process that costs money. The city needs to acquire 51 easements for the project.
Once the work has begun on the upgrades and the bond has officially opened, however, it can be used to repay the loan funds.
The sewer upgrades will not only better tie together the service on the eastern side of the city, but will also add enough capacity near the industrial park that it will make further economic development possible in that area. Low sewer capacity has been an achilles heel in a number of economic development projects in the Ark-La-Miss region in recent years.
“We are really excited about this project and what it means for our community,” Marshall said.
Other NRD actions that will benefit the region that were approved at the same time as the Crossett loan include:
-The Boeuf-Tensas Regional Irrigation Water Distribution District in Chicot, Desha, and parts of Drew, Ashley, Lincoln, and Jefferson Counties received approval to have an outstanding loan balance of $27,101 converted to a grant upon receipt of unexpended funds of $40,000 on or before June 30, 2021. The previously approved funds were to be used to match federal funds for the construction of a flood control and agriculture irrigation water supply project, but the federal funding was not received.
-The City of Strong in Union County received a $146,327 loan and a loan of $62,712 with principal forgiveness from the Arkansas Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund Program for wastewater system improvements. The number of customers estimated to benefit from this project is 432.
-The City of Eudora in Chicot County received a $543,404 loan and a loan of $1,630,221 with principal forgiveness from the Arkansas Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. The funding will be used for water system improvements, including the replacement of water mains and fire hydrants. This project will benefit approximately 955 customers.