Fort Smith City Leaders Will Travel To Washington In Hopes Of Modifying Consent Decree

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Water and sewer rates have increased significantly in the last five years and some Fort Smith residents are making changes to their daily routines in an effort to save money.

"We had a dishwasher. We got rid of it because it used too much water. We do laundry once a week to try and conserve on water," Fort Smith resident Ronnie Houston said.

Houston said his bill was nearly $70 this month compared to $30 when he moved into his neighborhood 15 months ago.

Fort Smith residents received a rate increase in 2011 and another in February 2017. Some of the rate increase stems from a 12 year consent decree. It's a federal order forcing the city to update decades old sewer problems. City leaders said the estimated cost to upgrade existing equipment is $400 million.

At the end of April, City Administrator Carl Geffken and other city and business leaders will travel to Washington D.C. to ask that the consent decree be modified.

"We will ask legislatures to help us persuade the Federal Government, the E.P.A. and the Department of Justice to recognize that we can not complete the consent decree in 12 years," Geffken said.

City leaders said that they will rely on the help of Congressman Steve Womack, Senator John Boozman and Senator Tom Cotton.

"The administration is not going to bring forth a rate increase at this point and I don't want the city to run a foul of the consent decree," Geffken said.

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