Nearly 20 years of meetings, planning, negotiations, lawsuits and at the cost of more than $50 million, it came down to the turning of a valve for the City of Ward to begin drinking from Greers Ferry Lake. It was announced Monday at the Ward City Council meeting that water from the Lonoke White Public Water Authority had been flowing to the city since July 2.

Mayor Art Brooke and Aldermen Bill Moon, Lee Schoonover, Charles Gastineau and Gary Matheny attended the meeting, while Jeff Shaver and Don Howard were absent.

Also during the meeting, the city council formed a committee to consider a city sales tax, similar to the Cabot sales tax, which would be used to fund capital improvements.

Mike Sipe, Ward public works supervisor, told the council that beginning July 7, the city water supply "Completely on the Lonoke-White water system."

Water had begun flowing to the city on July 2, Sipe said. "But you probably knew that for all the air we had in the line."

The city is pumping about 285,000 gallons of water each day, Sipe said. "I did see it run about 1,500 gallons a minute at one time when they opened the valve up too much … We can get a lot of water through the line, guys."

"Everything looks good," the city is not going to need to chlorinate or add fluoride to the water, Sipe said. The water pH is at 7.8, "Which is really good."

"The way it looks, we are not going to be out any expenses for chemicals," Sipe remarked. "All we have to do is buy the water, and enjoy the water from [Greers Ferry Lake]."

Gastineau remarked that the water tastes much better than it has in the past.

Brooke said the city is under contract with LWPWA to buy a minimum amount of water daily.

In other matters, the council approved the extension of the service contract, originally with CNS Services now with Waste Corporation of Arkansas, for city trash service.

WCA, at the last city council meeting, will be providing automated trash pickup. Residents are to be provided 96-gallon wheeled trash containers.

At Brooke’s encouragement, aldermen approved consideration of a city sales tax that would be used for capital improvements to streets and drainage as well as obtaining new maintenance equipment.

Brooke appointed Moon, Schoonover, Gastineau and Matheny to the committee.

"The biggest complaints I get in the city is our streets … I think it is time to do something with those streets," Moon remarked. "If the people are complaining, they should support [a tax]."

Aldermen also approved the planning commission recommendation to allow a property owner, who is having a house built, to temporarily live in a camper at the home site until construction is completed, and for a single-wide mobile home at the site for storage. Both the camper and mobile home will be removed after the home completed; the permission is valid for six months.

The council voted accept the findings of the 2013 state audit; "Overall, it is a good report," Brooke said.

Tim Lemons, of Lemons Engineering Consultants, reported that the project to install backup generators for the city wastewater system, "Is substantially complete."

The generators are to ensure the wastewater system continues operating during times of electricity power outages.

The contractor, however, has not paid two subcontractors for work. Performance-in-payment bond requirements protect the city in such matters, but a meeting has been set to "To get to the bottom of it," Lemons said. The subcontractors "Need their money," he said.

"Hopefully, that matter will soon be resolved," Lemons said.

The sidewalk project has slowed due to a needed easement, Lemon said. A fluke in the existing road construction caused an overlap into the right-of-way at Moon Road and Wilson Loop that has to be cleared before bids can be sought.

Without the easement, there would have to be two crossings at one intersection, which is unreasonable, Lemons said.

On the improvements to the Highway 319/367/Hickory Street intersection, a meeting is set for next week with the state highway department permit officer to review plans for the traffic circle.

The history of what is now the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority spans more than 20 years, and, at one point, was considered to be all but dead.

Construction of the 35-mile pipeline began in August 2013, backed with more than $50 million in a federal loan and from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC).

Water is drawn from Greers Ferry Lake at the LWPWA intake facility at Cove Creek where it is treated and delivered to the LWPWA members.

The startup capacity of the intake facility is 10 million gallons a day.

Lonoke White is made up of Ward, Austin, Beebe, Furlow Public Water Authority, Grand Prarie/Bayou Two Public Facilities Board (PFB), Jacksonville, North Pulaski Waterworks PFB and Vilonia Waterworks Association, with about 40,000 water meters.

Brooke is president of the LWPWA.