Conversion of water lines from the Western Greene County Rural Water District to Paragould Light, Water and Cable is proceeding apace.

As explained by utility chief operations officer Brett Bradford at a recent meeting of the PLWC board of commissioners, the changeover will affect 336 customers of Western Greene County, 316 of which are inside the Paragould city limits.

“Western Greene only had to provide drinking water,” he said, “whereas we have to be able to provide water for fire protection as well.”

The firefighting requirement is necessary on any property developed in the city for it to maintain its second-best-in-the-state fire rating of “2” from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill and utility CEO Darrell Phillips had both noted previously that numerous developers had contacted the city regarding developing properties in the area served by Western Greene, but had been told such developments would hurt the city’s fire rating until the capability to provide firefighting water could be emplaced.

To provide firefighting capability, any property developed inside the city limits must have water capable of flowing at 1,000 gallons per minutes for 90 minutes at 20 pounds per square inch. The differing requirements between rural water districts and what’s needed to keep the ISO “2” rating means the utility has been laying a 10,000-foot, 12-inch diameter feeder line through the Center Hill area.

The project, with an estimated cost of $3.5 million, has a required completion date of August 2021. The city already spent $1.68 million to acquire the water rights to the 2,284 acres of land to which Western Greene had already held the rights.

“When we start to serve the area,” Bradford told the board, “[customer] costs should go down. We’ll have 11,500 connects afterward.”

He noted the push to complete the Fiber to the Home project had tied up resources that would otherwise have been available for the upgrade of the changeover from Western Greene to PLWC.

“It’s taking a lot of people,” Bradford said, “and it has put us behind on other projects.”

Even after the project is completed, however, Bradford said Crowley’s Ridge College would not have the desired fire protection. “So we’ll have to put fire hydrants out there as well,” he concluded.

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