The Pine Bluff Wastewater Commission on Monday agreed to consider at its November meeting a 11 percent rate increase that would be phased in over a three-year period.

The Pine Bluff Wastewater Commission on Monday agreed to consider at its November meeting a 11 percent rate increase that would be phased in over a three-year period.

The commission voted to approve the concept of a rate increase with final action on the matter to be taken Monday, Nov. 24.

Wastewater Utility Executive Director Ken Johnson said that a report on revenue requirements prepared by the Black & Veatch consulting firm of Overland Park, Kan., arrived at the double-digit figure after factoring in such things as a decreasing population that has lead to a decline in revenue.

"We haven’t had a rate increase since 2007," Johnson said. "So we need to do something. We will need to have it sent through the Pine Bluff City Council Public Works Committee and then have it voted on by the city council."

Johnson said that the previous rate increase was also phased in over a three year time-frame.

Anna White authored the report and spoke with the commissioners via conference call.

"Since 2009 there has been a 6 percent decrease in accounts and we are projecting that the decrease will continue," White said. "At the same time, costs have increased 17 percent since 2009. We expect costs to continue to climb at a rate of 3 percent per year in line with inflation."

Johnson said that several significant capital projects are either underway or in the planning stage.

"We are looking at issuing a $5.5 million revenue bond for 2015 mainly to fund a force main project," Johnson said.

A force main is a pipeline that sends pressurized wastewater from the pumping station to the discharge point. Johnson said he will know by the first week of November what will be needed for the force main project.

Johnson said that a total of $2 million in sewer pipe rehabilitation work needs to be done.

Work on two such rehab projects got underway in mid-September and is currently ahead of schedule.

"The pipe-bursting project is complete," said David Poe, technical services supervisor with the wastewater utility. "This was finished two weeks ahead of schedule. The contractor for the CIPP (cured-in-place pipe) project began work last week and should be finished by Nov. 20. That project had been scheduled for a Dec. 8 completion date. Last week they installed 3,000 feet of liner, and this week they expect to install another 3,000 feet."

Pipe-bursting involves the insertion of replacement pipe into an existing pipe that has a smaller in diameter leading end to guide the pipe through, Johnson said.

Johnson said that CIPP is a process in which a liner is pulled into a sewer pipe to re-enforce the structure.

Building and Utility Contractors Inc. of Redfield submitted the low bid for the pipe-bursting project at $83,650 and Insituform of St. Louis, Mo., submitted the low bid for the CIPP project at $320,062.

In other business, Johnson said that revenue for the month of September was down by $83,000 from August.

"The reason for this is that Liberty Utilities in White Hall is in the process of implementing a new billing system, and this past month shut-off notices did not go out in a timely manner," Johnson said. "I spoke with their new general manager Pete Lucas and he told me that they were working to get the transition completed as soon as possible."

Johnson said that many customers wait until they receive a shut-off notice to pay their bill and the failure by Liberty to get the notices mailed out on time led to the revenue reduction.

"This is why we didn’t receive what we should have for the month," Johnson said. "We expect to get everything we are due in the next few months. Our revenue is based on the amount collected and not on the amount billed."

Johnson said that, for the month of September, the wastewater utility billed 13,414 residential customers; 1,881 commercial customers; 44 industrial customers; and 214 public authority customers.

Johnson said that public authorities include public housing as well as state government and federal government buildings.