JONESBORO — City Water and Light has budgeted $96.3 million for capital expenditures in 2022.
However, General Manager Jake Rice told the board of directors Tuesday he doubts capital spending will exceed $47 million. The rest is worst-case contingency budgeting, he said.
Most of the projects are continuations of major projects already begun to proactively avoid increasingly stringent water and wastewater environmental regulations. Some cities, including Fort Smith, that postponed that work now face deadlines to catch up. In the case of Fort Smith, the price tag is in the neighborhood of $500 million.
Among the projects are expansions of both the east and west wastewater treatment plants.
The west plant improvements, off of Willett Road, will essentially replace an older system, Rice said.
“We have $25 million in the 2022 budget for the west sewer plant,” Rice explained. “And it’s probably going to take another $30 million to finish it in 2023, so that’s going to be about a $60 million investment overall. This plant is addressing end-of-life issues for the existing plant that’s about 44 years old.”
Rice noted the new plant is designed to accommodate projected growth over the next 20 years and was designed in a way that it can be easily expanded.
Several ongoing projects will increase the city’s ability to collect and transfer wastewater to those plants, Rice said.
In the Electric Department, CWL will be constructing various projects to enhance the overall reliability and integrity of the system, particularly by making substations interconnected with each other to reduce potential outages.
Construction of the 13.25 megawatt Jonesboro Solar Park in the Craighead Technology Park is also scheduled for completion in second quarter of 2022.
“Once complete, the project will produce emissions free, sustainable energy over its expected life of 30 to 35 years,” Rice said. “It will also provide a hedge against transmission congestion, a future carbon tax, and volatile natural gas prices and bring price certainty to our customers. This facility will be an important resource in CWL’s future generation portfolio to meet our customers’ power needs.”
Two coal-fired plants managed by Entergy Arkansas provide the largest share of Jonesboro’s power needs at this point, but both are being phased out by 2030 to settle a pollution lawsuit.
The combination of hydroelectricity provided by the Southwest Power Administration and the new solar farm will provide an anticipated 28 percent to 30 percent of the city’s needs.
About $5.9 million will be invested next year in relocating utilities to make way for numerous transportation improvement projects. Projects include the extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly Commerce Drive) to U.S. 49 (East Johnson Avenue); the railroad overpass on Airport Road; intersections of Arkansas 351 (Old Greensboro Road) and Johnson Avenue; and Airport Road and Johnson Avenue; Parker Road and Harrisburg Road and U.S. 49 (Southwest Drive) at Parker Road.
During the relocation process, CWL will upgrade the the quality of poles and other infrastructure, Rice said.
Next year’s budget anticipates $103.93 million in electric revenue; $11.52 million in water and $9.52 million in wastewater. It anticipates a combined $4.35 million in net earning (profit).