Deteriorated, narrow roads and drainage problems at Austin are about to receive much awaited refurbishing and improvements after council members approved the bid of Redstone Construction of Little Rock. The repairs, repaving and replacements are being funded through a $1.25 million bond approved by city voters in a Oct. 2012 special election; the bond will be paid through a one-cent city sales and use tax.

The approval was made in a special council meeting, set at the April 22 regular council meeting. The meeting was also called to discuss establishing a business rate for water.

Mayor Bernie Chamberlain and city council members Laurel Carnes, Anthony Fibel, Matt Sheets, Tammy Williams, Randy Ryan and Phillip Whiting attended the meeting.

Aaron Robinson, engineer from Bond Consulting Engineers, Inc., reviewed the bids on the streets projects received from Cox Paving, of Bald Knob; Asphalt Pavers, of Conway; Salt Creek Paving, of Benton; and Redstone.

Schedule I: Widening Old Austin Road and installation of three box culverts at sections that see chronic flooding;

Schedule II – improvement to the intersection of Ed Haymes Road and Oak Ridge Road and other areas;

Schedule III, a chip-and-seal cover;

Schedule IV – a layer of asphalt over roads already paved.

Also, the bids included –

Alternate 1 – a seal coat for areas with "alligator" cracking;

Alternate 2 – a double coat of chip-and-seal on roads calling for the cover;

Alternate 3 – an inch-and-a-half of asphalt instead of a chip-and-seal surface.

Robinson recommended Redstone’s bid for Schedules I, II and IV because of the addition of Alternate 3 rather than using chip-and-seal.

The total bid is $894,543.23.

Robinson said the contract sets the work to be completed within 180 days.

Chamberlain said work on Old Austin Road could not begin until after the last day of school and buses were no longer serving the area. "I did promise [school superintendent Tony Thurman] that we would wait until school was out," she said.

The road would be closed for at least a week; residents on either side of the areas where the culverts would be installed would have to find alternate routes, she said.

On the matter of a water rate for businesses, Chamberlain told council members that under the terms of the 2009 bond for water system improvements, the city could not reduce the water rates. "The only thing I could come up with [to reduce charges] was the sewer," she said.

At the April 22 meeting, aldermen welcomed the approval of the site plan for a Tastee Freez restaurant. However, restaurant owner Billy Johnson warned that the current water rates could jeopardize final plans for the business.

The currently water rates would push his costs too high, Johnson said.

The matter was moved to the special meeting for action depending on what Chamberlain learned of possible restrictions.

On Monday, Chamberlain said the water rates could not be reduced, but there could be relief in establishing a reduced rate for wastewater service. It would not be a business rate, but a reduction in the rate schedule.

The wastewater rate could be reduced, after the first 10,000 gallons of water, from $3.50 per 1,000 gallons to $1.50, Chamberlain said.

Wastewater water rates are determined by the amount of water used by the customer.

However, since the rate schedule would be applied to all water customers, "It would help a few residents out, too," Chamberlain said.

The reduced rate could bring the estimated charges to within about $40 of that charged Johnson for a similar restaurant at Cabot, Chamberlain said.

The council agreed to have an ordinance drawn up making the change, for consideration at the May council meeting, which will be held May 20 rather than the regular schedule that would fall on Memorial Day.