by Max Brantley
UALR NEWS RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Aug. 29, 2006) – UALR released its study of wastewater utilities in Little Rock and North Little Rock today and concluded there was no compelling reason to merge to two operations into a single entity.
But the study – requested by the cities’ mayors and chairs of two utility boards – recommended the governing boards meet at least annually and that the chief executive officers of the two utilities meet at least twice a year to discuss and facilitate short-, mid- and long-term planning and cooperation.
“Both cities share the Arkansas River and they share an interest in the quality of the water in the river, the land use on each bank, its scenic beauty, and its commerce. And the two cities have a history of cooperation and merging operations in the interest of efficiency and economy,” said Chuck Goldner, dean of the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law and chair of the UALR Task Force on Wastewater Utilities. “In the case of wastewater management, however, the river separates more than it unites.”
But Goldner said the task force suggested merging each city’s storm sewer operations into its respective wastewater utility, since both operations deal with pipes, drains, and pumps. The report also suggested that North Little Rock and Sherwood seek an independent group to study the ongoing wastewater service dispute between those two cities and make recommendations on how the dispute and resulting litigation can be resolved.
Mayors Jim Dailey of Little Rock, Patrick Henry Hays of North Little Rock, and the then-chairs of the respective city sewer committees – Dale Wintroath of Little Rock and Edward Nelson of North Little Rock – asked UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson in 2004 to assist in an analysis of the potential for collaboration between the two utilities.
Previous UALR task forces addressing community and regional issues have called for building a collaborative, long-term strategy for balancing traffic and recreational priorities in Little Rock’s Jimerson Creek area, recommended solutions for regional mass transit problems, developed blueprints for bringing a regional approach to managing water resources in Saline County, developed plans for consolidating water systems in Little Rock and North Little Rock, and -- in 1997 in a task force chaired by Anderson -- published a study on the Little Rock School District that provided recommendations that are still being used by the district today.
“This is what a metropolitan university does,” Anderson said of UALR’s participation in community and regional studies.
Goldner said members of the task force, who brought no preconceived ideas of where the study would lead, ended the study with five conclusions:
· Customers of each wastewater utility are well served by well-managed and effective operations.
· The task force identified no compelling reason to merge the two wastewater utilities into a single entity.
· Managers of each utility and each of the governing boards should meet regularly to support and encourage future cooperation.
· Each city should transfer storm water control and collection operations to their respective wastewater utilities.
· North Little Rock and Sherwood should ask an independent group to study the ongoing wastewater service dispute between those two cities and make recommendations on how the dispute can be resolved.
“Management of each wastewater utility operates an effective system,” the task force said in its final report. Two public hearings conducted on each side of the river found no complaints or negative comments about the operation of either utility.
In addition to Goldner, other members of the task force were Dr. Jamie Byrne, associate professor and director of the School of Mass Communications; Dr. JoAnne Matson, professor of rhetoric and writing; Dr. Forrest Payne, professor of biology; Dr. Ron J. Swager, senior research specialist of the Institute for Economic Advancement, and Dr. Wendi Williams, assistant professor of earth science.