The Pine Bluff City Council approved a resolution authorizing the preparation and submittal of an application to the Arkansas Department of Health's Division of Engineering that would improve drinking water with a service line replacement grant.
According to Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, the city of Pine Bluff is eligible to receive funding for a complete service line replacement, which is an eligible expense provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which has invested $3 billion toward lead service line replacement.
The purpose of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) is to help public water systems finance the cost of infrastructure necessary to achieve or maintain compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requirements and to protect public health by reducing lead exposure in the most at-risk communities. The state of Arkansas received approximately $42.6 million under the plan for lead service line replacement.
"This is a grant that we're going to be making an application for," said Washington.
Larry Matthews, director of Economic Development for Pine Bluff, said he was made aware of the grant a couple of weeks ago.
"Just like asbestos, it is prevalent in a lot of the pipes that we have in Pine Bluff," he said. "This is an assessment agreement that we have with the company. They will come out and assess and do testing, look at the lines and find out what the levels of contamination are in the various pipes."
According to Matthews, after the findings have been established, the city will apply to have those lines replaced.
"These lines come from the meter to the unit," said Matthews. "It will not entail any inside plumbing. It will be done only on the outside."
Washington added that rental properties would not be serviced.
"They are not going to put money into your rental houses," she said. "They made that clear that it's home-ownership."
In other business, the city council approved a resolution giving permission to the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency to include the painting of murals on city-owned structures in the Urban Renewal Area of the city.
According to the resolution, PBURA has partnered with the art department of the University of Arkansas- Pine Bluff for the display of art in vacant storefronts on Main Street. The art, according to the resolution, would be displayed on the exterior walls of the buildings as part of the city's effort to promote the attractiveness of the area for residents and tourists.
Chandra Griffin, PBURA executive director, said the Kress Building and the Crown were to be painted with murals, but that after meeting with various groups and touring downtown, it was decided that the first building will be 300 S. Main St., which has an existing mural located beside Looking Good.
The mural, according to Griffin, will be replaced with removable art pieces just in case that building ends up being stabilized. "The mural won't be disturbed," said Griffin. "We will be able to remove them."
The council also approved 2022 carryover to 2023 in the amount of $18,632,409, which includes parks maintenance, $25,000 discretionary funds for each council member and a $1,050,000 reserve for special projects, to name a few items.
Washington said she will need to meet with council members to set guidelines and time frames on how the city council members can use the money to benefit their ward and build relationships with the constituents in their ward.