The board of Texarkana, Arkansas met on Monday, February 1 to address a few issues, including that of a water and sewer rate increase. During the meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve Texarkana Water Utilities’ proposed 8.5% rate increase that would ultimately raise customer’s bills by 6%.
The average resident’s monthly bill will go up $3.34, increasing from an average bill of $64.73 to $68.07. This will be the first rate increase for Arkansas-side residents since April 2009. Laney Harris, who casted the only no vote, said he was representing constituents who had told him the increase was too high.
According to Jim Cornelius, TWU Finance Director, the 8.5% rate bump will leave 33 days’ worth of cash in reserve at the end of FY 2021. The funds collected from this rate increase are to be used for equipment repairs and upcoming projects.
Additionally, the board voted to table a decision to approve proposed changes to the city fireworks ordinance. Ward 1 Director, Terry Roberts, sponsored the measure after he received numerous constituent complaints regarding a firework display during a wedding reception on January 23 at the Texarkana Country Club. According to Roberts, noise from the display prompted 911 calls, caused pets to run away from their homes and triggered an episode of PTSD for one local veteran.
If approved, the ordinance changes would be to provide public notice that fireworks displays will be happening. People that are granted a display permit would be required to publish a notice of the display for at least two consecutive weeks prior to the event.
Mayor Brown was concerned that such notices would result in objections from the public with no process in place to account for them. Steve Hollibush, Ward 3 Director, objected to restricting firework displays to Saturdays and Sundays. The board will continue this discussion at the next meeting.
The board also unanimously voted to approve changes to an ordinance governing the Texarkana Airport Authority. According to Mayor Brow, the changes are intended to help move the airport to financial self-sufficiency and give the Board oversight of the Authority’s budget, to which the city contributes in partnership with Texarkana, Texas. The Texas-side Board is expected to take up identical measures during their meeting next week.
The changes will add a ninth, at-large member of the Authority’s board and is subject to joint approval of both cities. Each city will continue to appoint four members to the board. The Authority is required to establish its own revenue fund and purchasing policy, including competitive bidding procedure. Any expenditure that exceeds $25, 000 will require joint approval of both Texarkanas’ city managers. The Authority would also have to hire an executive director and develop a strategic plan that is required to be periodically reviewed and must retain its own legal counsel.
The board also unanimously approved two rezoning requests, one of which would allow expansion of popular local business, Three Chicks Feed, Seed and Café. Three Chicks’ owners purchased a nearby parcel of land and planning to put a drive-through fried fish restaurant or similar business there. The other approval allows the owner of 3021 Will Grear Road to “develop a hobby farm to grow products such as blueberries, and sell agricultural products using the existing buildings,” according to city documents.