After nearly 20 years of planning, the water supply link with Greers Ferry Lake is nearing the start of construction, the Ward City Council learned Monday during its regular meeting.

Construction bids however came in about $5 million higher than expected, Lonoke-White Public Water Authority attorney Clint McGue said.

Mayor Art Brooke and Aldermen Bill Moon, Lee Schoonover, Jeff Shaver, John Staley, Charles Gastineau and Don Howard attended the council meeting.

Along with Ward, current LWPWA members include Austin, Beebe Water and Sewer Commission, Furlow Public Water Authority, Grand Prarie/Bayou Two Water Users Association, Jacksonville Water, North Pulaski Waterworks and Vilonia Waterworks Association. Brooke is the current LWPWA president.

When complete the approximately 35-mile, 24-inch waterline will deliver up to 30 million gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry Lake. Construction will include an intake and water treatment facility at the Cove Creek section of the lake.

The project is being funded by a $24.5 million federal loan, and up to $30.9 million from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Repayment of the loans would be through water rates charged by the members.

Although the greater-than-expected construction bids likely will require a rate increase, the increase appears to be about 1-cent per 1,000 gallons, McGue said. “That’s how close we are,” he said.

Bids for the project were opened Thursday in a nearly six-hour process.

“There was a lot [contractor] interest … It was literally nationwide,” McGue said. “That helped on the prices.”

The target date to close on the contracts was June 28 but that is likely to be moved to a later date, he said.

Brooke said some of the bids were, “absolutely dumbfounding.”

However, others came in up to $2 million less than expected.

“That made up for some of the deficit … put it back in the window where we needed it to be,” he said. “I think people will be pleasantly surprised … once they see the difference in the quality of the water.”

More details of the construction start are to be released at the regular LWPWA meeting on Tuesday, Brooke said.

In other matters, Moon called for the council to return to considering parking restrictions in the city.

“I am getting more complaints on the parking,” he said.

A year ago there was an attempt to draw up an ordinance, but the work stalled with a committee that was to collect information on parking ordinances.

“I am still waiting to hear a report,” Moon said. “We have got to get something started on this.”

Staley said he has found much of the problem to be with trailers. While the trailers pose a problem for emergency vehicles, he has found poor marking to be a greater problem.

“There are no reflectors on the front of a lot of those trailers,” he said.

But if there are restrictions placed on parking, it will likely raise another issue.

Staley said, “The next issue will be people parking in their yards, and the neighbor is going to be mad because they are rutting up the yard … lowering property values.”

Brooke said many of the new subdivisions have bills of assurance that limit and control parking.

“And [residents] can enforce it themselves, but they don’t want to do that, they want [the city] to do that,” he said.

Discussion ended without a date for the parking committee to reconvene.

Tim Lemons, city engineer, reported that the new water tank is about 75 percent complete and should be operating with water in it by end of summer.

Also, Lemons said, bidding on the Safe Route to School sidewalk project will be on July 3.

“We should have a lot of interest in it,” he said.

The project would add sidewalks along Peyton Street to, and in front of, Ward Central Elementary School.

Lemons said work has started toward obtaining funding for a walking trail around Willow Lake. Surveyors have determined the corners of property. The trail would be about 3,600 feet long with handicapped parking available and exercise stations or benches about every 600 feet, he said.