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...about Town With Mayor Bob December 2017

12/18/2017

ATTENTION DECATUR, ARKANSAS RESIDENTS AND WATER OR WASTEWATER CUSTOMERS OF DECATUR, ARKANSAS

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At this time of year our country finds Thankfulness with the Thanksgiving Season, Excitement with celebration of Christmas and Hope for a better year with the advent of New Years.

Our world seems to be so different, than when I was a child, in that everyone has a thought which becomes a position and that position becomes a campaign; when expressed it creates hurt and damages relationships that historically have been so precious to many. 

 In our corner of the world, Decatur finds itself in such a position.

The poultry industry has decades of history in Decatur. During the past nearly 10 years Simmons Prepared Foods has operated the processing plant in Decatur. Before that, the operation was owned and operated by Lloyd Peterson. After Mr. Peterson's death Simmons purchased the Company. Simmons has continued to operate the LP Gas Company and Feed Mill, which are in our City Limits. A few years ago Simmons built a new pet food plant. The processing plant alone employees 700 and 20% of those employees live in Decatur.

Simmons has proposed the construction of a new processing plant outside of our City Limits. The processing plant in Decatur is over 6 decades old  and is in need of replacement. Simmons first choice was to build inside the City but no land was obtainable. Further study, for building in the City, presented an alternative, but that would have impacted and necessitated relocation of several city streets.

What is the interest of the City of Decatur in Simmons proposal to build a new plant? Where Simmons chooses to continue operations impacts the City of Decatur enormously. The Wastewater Plant is a huge issue with potentially devastating results if the City were to lose Simmons, as a customer. Additionally the potential loss of jobs would negatively impact Decatur.

In 2003, a ruling from a lawduit filed by Tulsa, Oklahoma, the City of Decatur was ruled by that lawsuit to replace their Wastewater Plant and built the current Wastewater Processing Plant. The new plant is about 10 years old and is considered state of the art and cost the city million dollars to construct. The debt for this plant is still large and we pay on it every month. To accommodate growth and stay in State compliance, last year the City Council voted to update this plant to better and improved output standards with significant upgrade costs that increased our monthly payments. The City has a significant debt for the Wastewater Process Plant. The debt is paid with charges to customers like us, you and I. The customer rates are established by Ordinance that guarantees the cities ability to pay federal bonds. The Ordinance sets rates, keeping the City with in state law guidelines, for debt repayment ratio known as "coverage." As a city customer you pay water and if available at your location wastewater every month plus trash service, etc. That revenue stream pays for the debt on our wastewater plant. This includes all residential customers, industrial custoemrs and the City of Centerton. Total payments for the old plus upgraded plant exceed $100,00.00 every month.

During the past months, beginning March 24, 2017, evaluation of Simmons choice of a new processing plant location has been of high consideration for your city council and myself. I have been involved in regular meetings with Simmons since March of this year.

Where Simmons may rebuild is of exteme importance to your city because we need to provide sewer service to Simmons so we can pay our debt without raising user rates.

Some people have said to me what happens if simmons relocates outside the Decatur area? If that were to happen and we no longer have our largest industrial customer, cost of Water and Sewer will be impacted by rate increases.

Other people have said to me what happens if Simmons stays in Decatur? Real easy answer and it is, no rate change plus we build our Wastewater Plant to new capacity that is needed. Decatur must continue providing Wastewater Sewer services to Simmons Foods, bottom line! This is a must for our city.

My goal, as your Mayor, has been to insure that we can continue being a wastewater process provider for Simmons Prepared Foods.

I have not released the borrowed funds to upgrade the Wastewater Plant, as I mentioned before, while I wait to confirm Simmons will continue to be our customer, wherever that may be. When I know definitely that they will relocate the processing plant at a location where Decatur can service them for their Wastwater Sewer needs, then I will release the funds. 12 months, from that date, our upgrade will be completed and is substantial enough to handle all flows from all our customers with no rate increase.

What is critical for you to know if you are a current Decatur, Arkansas water and or wastewater customer? The City has completed rate studies with a certified engineering company, necessary to fund this upgrade project for our Wastewater Plant.

1. If Simmons locates where the City of Decatur is not the wastewater/Sewer processing provider your water and/or sewer rates will change. Sewer rates are primarily in the City while water is both inside and outside city limits, and yes all rates would be impacted. Estimations have been confirmed by the certified engineering company that rates could increase up to 95%.

2. If Simmons locates in a location where the City of Decatur will be the Wastewater/Sewer processing provider for them, hyour water sewer rates will not change.

As I conclude my thoughts to you the citizens of Decatur and surrounding area, please recognize that these thoughts are to the City of Decatur and its water and wastewater customers.

In my opening comments I mentioned, "in our corner of the world Decatur finds itself in such a position" so I am well aware ofopinions presently relative to a proposed palnt location.

I have not addressed anything but facts and those facts are impacts to my town and it customers. I have not spoken of a specific location that is not for me to talk about. 

I will be bold enough to post this on my Facebook Mayor Page and publish in the Westside Eagle Observer Newspaper. If you have thoughts, please go tot he City Website and go to my tab then send me an email. This is the best method of communication with me and will not impact my Facebook Page. Decatur's website is http://decaturarkansas.com.

As I close, I would really appreciate your refrainment from responding on my Facebook. Again, as I said in my opening thoughts, "Our world seems to be so different, than when I was a child, in that everyone has a thought which becomes a position and that position becomes a campaign when expressed creates hurt and damages relationships that historically have been so precious to many." Friends are valuable to me.

I have not spoken my opinion rather shared with you the facts that the City of Decatur finds itself dealing with now.

As the Mayor of Decatur I have taken an oath to uphold the laws of our town and manage the city. To Decaturwater and wastewater customers I have given you the information that you need.

Working Together Decatur is Doing Awesome Things!

Mayor Bob Tharp

Mayor Bob Tharp wrote this article as a public service to Decatur, Arkansas.