We woke up this morning to a situation that has occurred many times on our street over the eight-and-a-half-year span of time we have lived in Hot Springs Village. I am talking about water line bursts, many of which have been located within a stone’s throw distance from our home. Click here to read about a past water line break across from our house.
First, I would like to stress that I am not bringing up this problem to criticize anyone – not the POA, not current management or the Board, and definitely not the workers. It is what it is; we have aging infrastructure here in the Village. The proverbial maintenance can was kicked down the road for quite some time, and sufficient money was not set aside or even collected to address the deferred infrastructure problem.
Today, Larry Hefley, HSVPOA Line Maintenance Supervisor, led his skilled crew in swiftly repairing our waterline. In two hours’ time, our water service was restored by the hardworking and courteous POA crew, consisting of James Davis, J.T. McCoy, Sam Davis, and James Mullen. Hefley said that repairing a water or sewer leak is a daily occurrence, and they have three full-time crews. These men could be doing other tasks if there were not so many leaks. Hefley modestly stressed that it is not him but it is the crew that deserves the credit for the excellent service.
While our service was promptly restored, the repair made today does not address the real issue, and that is, the water line on the whole street is continually failing. We are fortunate as this street is on the list for replacement but do not know how long it will be before that happens.
In the meantime, there will probably be more waterline breaks and temporary fixes. And to make matters even worse, every burst pipe causes more and more deterioration of the road, with many additional cracks. Today we witnessed water gushing out of the already seriously compromised roadbed, erosion, and an unknown quantity of wasted water.
HSV Public Services has been putting a bandage on the situation for quite a while now. While bandages are helpful, they can be pretty expensive, and the pipes keep right on bursting just a little further down the line. This is happening in many locations in the Village, and Ken Unger, Director of Public Services, is now scrambling to address the deferred infrastructure problem with the money and resources we have.
Although this issue is quite serious, it is not all doom and gloom because we have a General Manager who understands the problem and is addressing the issue and a Public Services Director who is developing an extensive plan and is chipping away at the problem every day. He is getting all of his ducks in a row and prioritizing repairs and replacement on all of our infrastructure. However, there is so much that needs to be done, and resources are thin. In an attempt to help pay for some of these ‘fixes,’ our General Manager has applied for a grant. It remains to be seen if we will be awarded this grant, but it would be a godsend. We have asked for $8 M, which will have to be matched with $8 M of our own funds.
This is what Unger said about the grant at November 16, 2022, Board Meeting:
“The HSVPOA submitted three grant applications for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements. The grants were submitted to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Commission by Saline County on behalf of HSV. This is the first time to our knowledge that this has been done on behalf of the Village. The grant totals over $8 M, and whatever is rewarded will require a 50% match. These are for much-needed infrastructure improvements that were identified as part of the Comprehensive Master Management Plan that was done several years ago.”
Hopefully, we will find out soon if we will receive any of the grant money.
When I talked to the Public Services Director on the telephone the other day, he said, “a lot of people don’t see this stuff happening, and they don’t realize the reason their assessments have been so low over the years is that the infrastructure has not been adequately maintained. They [the POA] have not been saving money because of low dues. They have not had the money necessary to fix the infrastructure.”
Continuing, the Director expressed, “part of the problem is we are dealing with a history of management using the money for things other than infrastructure repair, and some people have become jaded. I get it. I have been here for over ten years, and I saw some of the waste. To me, it was just ignorance.”
“The goal here is to lay out a plan that can survive me that gets our infrastructure into a cycle where it starts being addressed and dealt with so we are not wasting money and dealing with issues like other communities have where the infrastructure fails right out from under them. Then they have real issues. If you look at Jackson, Mississippi – we do not want that here. That is what I am trying to avoid. We don’t want to become that. I don’t think we are. We have time here, but residents need to understand that these are things they don’t see every day, so they don’t really worry about it until it hits them and we have to start addressing it every year, and we have to start paying a little to get it done, whether it is financing or assessments. It is not cheap. The people who have lived here for 30, 40, or 50 years have gotten a good deal,” stated Unger.
Unger said that he and the General Manager are in the same alignment on what needs to happen, and it is not just infrastructure. There are other things here that are out of balance that need to be addressed, and that is the goal – to make this place self-sustaining and to put the resources where they need to go to have the community survive for the next 20 or 30 years.
By Cheryl Dowden; Photography and Videography by Joe Dowden
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR PUBLIC SERVICES DIRECTOR
Director Public Services
Hot Springs Village