Sanders wants loan expedited to fix Helena-West Helena’s water woes

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(The Center Square) – Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is asking the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to expedite a loan to a town stricken with water woes for the second time in seven months.

Residents of Helena-West Helena are still without water a week after severe weather affected the city’s system. A water main break in August left residents without water for four weeks.

The $100,000 loan is the second the city has received. Another $100,000 was given to the city after the August incident. The money will be used to refurbish two wells and replace valves in the city’s water system.

“I’ve been in constant contact with Helena-West Helena’s Mayor and deployed the Arkansas National Guard and other emergency responders to provide water and address the issue,” Sanders said. “Going forward, this loan is part of my administration’s larger efforts to help the city refurbish its water system and prevent future system failures.”

Some lawmakers attending the Friday meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Council questioned Helena-West Helena’s handling of money received previously for infrastructure. Sen. Ben Gilmore, R-Crossett, said he heard some of the money given for infrastructure needs may have been used for salaries.

Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, said he would add the city’s water issue to the agenda of a subcommittee next week for discussion.

“I think it’s important that we do that,” Johnson said.

Helena-West Helena was one of 10 water systems in the state that experienced outages during recent winter storms, A.J. Gary, director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, told the ALC Friday. The other systems are restored, he said.

ADEM and the National Guard are helping Helena-West Helena residents until the problem is fixed.

Sanders ordered a comprehensive study of the state’s water system in August. The plan was last updated in 2014, she said.

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