Note: The recent tornado interrupted the timely publication of this article.

Bringing a touch of festivity to the regular Public Services Meeting on March 14, 2024, Chair David Childs provided St. Patrick’s Day-themed treats. He conducted the meeting wearing a leprechaun immersed upside down in a pot of gold hat. The meeting topics included the East DeSoto Boulevard repair, 24-inch valve and Venturi meter installation, deficit/surplus water funds, and more. Some of the topics were previously covered in the Gazette, and instead of repeating the material, I linked to the articles.

Hot Springs Village Public Services Committee Mtg. 3-14-24 David Childs
P. S. Chair David Childs offers St. Paddy’s Day treats.

The Committee Members present were David Childs (Chair), Ken Unger (Director, Public Services), John Sowers (Secretary), Larry Siener (POA Board Director Representative), Keith Buchanan, Philip Matone, George Parker, Jim Patton, Michael Riley, and Walt Black.

The guests attending the meeting were Pete Loughlin and Bob Cunningham, Former Board Member, and Public Services Committee Member.

East DeSoto Boulevard repair

Public Services Director Ken Unger updated the committee on the recently completed DeSoto Boulevard Mill and Repave Project. Click here to read about it. Core sampling and testing will be done. The millings from this project are being used to improve parking surfaces at Grove Park, boat ramps, dog park, etc.

Unger said, “The goal is to introduce crowns on the roads or super elevations as we do these road projects. A section on Balearic on a curve is falling apart. We will mill and replace this section on Balearic, heading west past Minorca, and introduce a slight elevation to the curve.” For any place where delamination occurs, Public Services will try to fix the road elevation or crowning simultaneously when they do the mill and replace work on the road.

Unger wants to avoid milling and patching small segments of the roads because that process doesn’t fix the road [meaning it doesn’t give the road a crown or raised elevation]; it just takes care of the delamination.

HDPE projects and certification

This article discusses the use of HDPE pipes in water main replacement projects.

“HDPE is a flexible plastic pipe used for fluid and gas transfer and is often used to replace aging concrete or steel mains pipelines. Made from thermoplastic HDPE (high-density polyethylene), its high impermeability and strong molecular bonds make it suitable for high-pressure pipelines. The pipe joints are often joined using high-temperature electrofusion machines.”  

Unger said he is trying to coordinate the HDPE certification of employees, possibly with the contractor’s pipe supplier.

24-inch valve and Venturi meter installations outside the water plant

This article discusses the 24-inch valve and Venturi meter installations.

“On Wednesday, March 6, from 10:00 in the evening until 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning, a seven-man crew from Coakley Construction and three Village staff, overseen by Chris Boutzale, Water and Wastewater Superintendent, toiled through the night to install a new 24″ valve in the outgoing water line outside the water plant. The water plant was taken offline to perform this work.”

The Venturi meter was scheduled to be installed on Thursday, March 19 (overnight). The new Venturi meter will provide accurate water plant outflow information, which we have not had since the plant was upgraded in 2014.

GG Lift Station

The GG Lift Station pumps will arrive soon if they haven’t already. “We are about three-quarters of the way done with the force main. We are working our way down Ponce de Leon Boulevard and should be going down the powerlines within the next couple of days, weather permitting,” stated Unger [I am not sure how the weather impacted this project.]

Unger said people mentioned that the POA runs sewer lines through the golf courses. He said we already have many sewer lines going through the golf courses, so “this isn’t new.”

The intent of this project is to double the capacity of the GG Lift Station, “between the pump change and having two 6″ force mains. I am hoping this solves the GG overflow issues.”

Our engineering company estimated it would cost us $2.5 M to fix the GG overflow problem. Unger said, “If this solution works, we will do it for $250,000, not including labor.”

To save money, Unger is bringing more projects in-house. Click here to read about in-house project execution. Unger said they are doing this with the same amount of staff because they are making long-term repairs on some projects that they previously spent a lot of staff time fixing. Unger refers to the previous band-aiding of infrastructure as whack-a-moling the repairs.

Whack-a-moling is the practice of trying to stop problems, etc., that repeatedly occur in an apparently random manner; also, the act of dealing with such matters in a piecemeal manner without achieving a complete solution.”

Unger said we can get into a maintenance routine when we fix the problems instead of patching things together.

Click here to read about how the tornado impacted the water system.

Click here to read an article about the Public Services Department’s cost-saving measures.

Emergency backup water supply and supplying water outside the village

Emergency backup water supplies could include wells and Lake Cortez, fed by artesian springs.

Board Director and Committee Liaison Larry Siener said that we could sell our unusable water rights to access Lake Ouachita water. (Click here to read about this.) “There are significant restrictions in the Declaration regarding selling water outside the community. Cooper would never buy off on it,” stated Siener.

Deficit or surplus funds/reserve funds for utilities

Unger said, “My first couple of years here, we had a surplus in utilities. My plan shows us running utility deficits for the foreseeable future (five or ten years).” The deficits may be covered through bonding. In 2023 there was approximately a $300,000 surplus. A surplus will not happen again due to ACT 605. “Moving forward, we will invest money into water and sewer over and above what we generate. At some point, the [water and sewer] rates have to catch up to the system’s normal operating costs after we finish fixing everything. That is the end game in 2028/2029,” explained the Public Services Director

Siener said there are reserve funds for utilities, non-utilities, and operating costs. “The Board must determine whether the emergency reserve funds are adequate.” Although previously not done, the money has been invested in the past year and a half to earn interest income.

Road safety

Unger said that Matt Broom, Associate Director of Public Services, recommends installing flashing stop signs at a cost of approximately $1400 each on Minorca Road at DeSoto Boulevard due to the steep hill on DeSoto. There is a two-fold problem at this intersection: drivers are not stopping at the stop sign, and there is a steep drop-off. Committee Member Jim Patton asked if solar could be used for the flashing stop signs in the area?”

Childs said that the striping in that location is important.

Staff and the Committee will also address the issues of guard rails on Desoto and Balearic, other road safety issues, and contractors’ road damage. 

Public Services Director Unger update

Unger and the many teams in his organization have been busy with numerous projects:

  • Unger said they will go out for quotes for Cortez Road repair and should have the results in April.
  • There was a washout at Pineda Dam on Balearic Road. This was fixed with a combination of rip rap and grouting.
  • Low-cost improvements were made at the Archery Range with funds from the Urban Deer Hunt.
  • Staff is working on ‘Painting, Polishing, and Preserving’ the previous Bocce Ball area.
  • A culvert was replaced on Carmona Road. The road repair still needs to be made.
  • Various dips on Balearic Road were repaired.
  • Several other culverts were replaced, and this work will continue. On some of the culverts that need work, the only thing wrong is the bottom. “We are working with our vendors, or potentially doing them ourselves, to line the bottom of the culverts [instead of replacing].
  • A tractor purchased last year has a chainsaw adapting tool on the bucket. “We were able to clean up trees on DeSoto Boulevard. This worked better than our expectations. So instead of paying $8 to $16 thousand a mile, we can do this ourselves.”
  • If something on private property interferes with roadway sight distance, it is up to the property owner to address this issue.
  • We are developing a program, enlisting resident help, to “Paint, Polish, and Preserve” the 225 neighborhood entrance signs. “My team can’t do this.”
  • Around twenty or thirty golf crossing intersections on roadways have been cleared.
  • We are evaluating leaving at least one pump running constantly in sewage lift stations to better reduce and control hydrogen sulfide gas.
  • It was determined that the C1 Water Storage Tank doesn’t need repair. However, it will need repainting within five years.
  • The Ponce de Leon parking lot was seal-coated and restriped.
  • The Ponce de Leon bathroom revitalizations are almost finished.
  • Mike Sykora is obtaining quotes for the Coronado Community Center roofing.
  • An ongoing project is revitalizing the upstairs area at Balboa Clubhouse. Many volunteers are involved with painting, flooring, etc., to convert it into a restaurant and entertainment area.
  • Seven R-22 units still need to be replaced. Hopefully, this project will be completed this year. R-22 refrigerant, or R-22 freon, is a cooling compound used in air conditioners and heat pumps that harms the ozone layer when released into the air and is being phased out.
  • Road millings have been installed at Grove Park and other places. This eliminates dust from the gravel parking lots.
  • Full conversion at the water plant to Hypochlorite will happen by mid-April.
  • Unger aims to clean up and make the Village sparkle, especially as summer approaches.
  • The recent Builders Meeting went well. The building permit process has been streamlined.
  • Unger is working on selling cardboard and plastic recyclables.
  • Cortez Lift Station – Part of this work will be self-performed. Bids will go out, and the committee will be updated at the next meeting.

Hot Springs Village Public Services Committee Mtg. 3-14-24 Ken Unger
Ken Unger, P. S. Director updates committee.


Siener said to make certain that your gas tanks are filled, and sufficient groceries are purchased before the April 8 Total Solar Eclipse weekend. “You will likely see the store shelves and gas stations emptied over the weekend. There is anticipated to be a large number of visitors to the village. Reschedule your April 8 and 9 Little Rock and Hot Springs appointments.” Siener expects some roads to be gridlocked.

Hot Springs Village Public Services Committee Mtg. 3-14-24 Larry Siener
Board Member Larry Siener gives eclipse advice.

Additional information

Every year, generous Public Services Committee Members donate to the Hot Springs Village Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association Annual Golf Scramble Fundraiser.

The next Public Services Committee Meeting is Thursday, March 28, at 9:30 a.m. at the Coronado Community Center. Brian Wintle from Crist Engineering will give a water update.

Featured image: The Public Services Committee works hard at the March 14, 2024 meeting.

By Cheryl Dowden


Ken Unger
Director Public Services
Hot Springs Village

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