Utility Bills in Fort Smith Could Increase

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- City administrator Ray Gosack said an increase in the sewer rate will be necessary in order to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

"We're still calculating what the rate impacts will be, and we expect to have that information either later this month or early next month,” Gosack said.

"I don't think the people should have to pay a higher bill because of their city problem,” Lonnie Sharb said.

Fort Smith leaders have been in negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency, trying to find a solution to avoid a federal lawsuit.

Kenneth Fort has lived in Fort Smith for about one year.

“We have sewer smell that's coming inside of our house and stuff. A lot of people that I have talked to have the same problem,” Fort said.

When rainwater enters the sewer through underground pipes, it overwhelms the system, causing sewage to flow into the streets.

City officials said the sewage problem doesn't just happen when it's raining, it happens during dry conditions, too.

Putting fat, oils and grease down the drain can clog the system.

"We don't want it clogging the sewers -- just like people don't want fat clogging their arteries,” Gosack said.

Jagger May said he wouldn't mind paying a higher bill.

"Being proud of my city, I wouldn't want anyone to come here and notice it dirty, or sewage in the streets -- I would do anything to improve it because once we improve the look of our city we can bring in new things like jobs and people who want to bring their business here,” May said.

The increase will take effect next year once an amount is decided on and approved.

The city budget is expected to be approved by the first week of December.

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