Alderman Karen Brooks stated during a workshop on Thursday night, "I recommend to incorporate the town of Bauxite." The city faces continued financial struggles and Brooks felt her suggestion was a viable option for the town located between Benton and Bryant.
During a workshop on Thursday, the Bauxite city council discussed the financial situation in the town, specifically focusing on the recent recommendation by the Arkansas Rural Water Association to increase water rates to offset anticipated operation and maintenance costs at current and future levels. Brooks said during the discussion, "We are going to have to change our water billing." The sewer and water rates for the town of Bauxite are set by ordinance and to raise them, the council would need to amend the ordinance. Brooks said that she believes that Bauxite should treat residential customers and businesses differently similar to the system employed by Benton Utilities. She recommended that there be a higher charge for water and sewer on businesses saying, "I'm a business. I would have to pay more."
The council members agreed that an increase on businesses for water and sewer would increase revenue for the town, specifically in regards to the Bauxite School District. Alderman Paula Matthews volunteered to look at Benton Utilities' rates as a possible model for Bauxite. Matthews said she had previously spoken to representative at Benton Utilities and was told that sewer rates should be higher than water rates but in Bauxite the opposite is true.
Mayor Johnny McMahan stated, "We are making money on the water. We are losing money probably on the sewer."
Alderman Brenda Haney stated, "I don't see how the citizens of Bauxite can afford to pay anymore for water." Haney stated that a majority of Bauxite citizens are seniors who simply cannot afford a rate increase and said if the rates were to go up, "You are going to see an influx of people move our of Bauxite."
Brooks responded that the only other option for Bauxite would be to incorporate with either Benton or Bryant. McMahan said that he had heard from officials outside of Bauxite who stated that incorporation may be a good decision for Bauxite. However, McMahan said, "I am not going to be the mayor who incorporates Bauxite."
Matthews compared raising the water rates in Bauxite keep the town afloat to how in previous years, Bauxite behaved as a speed trap to bring in additional ticket revenue.
McMahan said he had previously been at a meeting with Benton Community Development Director Lamont Cornwell and McMahan noted that Cornwell had stated that Benton might be interested in taking Bauxite if incorporation was on the table.
To incorporate the town of Bauxite into one of the surrounding cities, Bauxite council would have to pass an ordinance, as would the other cities' council. Then both cities' residents would have an opportunity to vote on the issue.
Bauxite resident Debbi Purifoy who filed earlier this week to run for Mayor of Bauxite spoke from the audience saying, "If we had a political body that would work together that would be great, but when you have this you need to incorporate." Purifoy also added that when she was previously on the Bauxite council this issue was discussed and said that if Benton incorporated Bauxite they would put a surcharge on the sewer. The Mayor said he believed what Purifoy said to be true.
Alderman Mona Struble said that the council should take this discussion to the public.